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    Caffeine Toxicity: How Much Is Too Much?
    By Garth Sundem | March 30th 2009 06:00 AM | 8 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Garth

    Garth Sundem is a Science, Math and general Geek Culture writer, TED speaker, and author of books including Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Dish the...

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    There are four caffeine-induced psychiatric disorders recognized by the DSM-IV, the diagnosis manual of the American Psychiatric Association: caffeine intoxication, caffeine-induced anxiety disorder, caffeine-induced sleep disorder, and caffeine-related disorder not otherwise specified.

    And, as you know if you have ever had to walk low-Starbucks-density wastelands, withdrawal can result in nausea, lethargy and depression. But what of the classic, washed-up-child-star-style overdose?

    The Mallinckrodt Baker Material Safety Data Sheet describes the lethal dose of caffeine as 192mg/kg in rats (note: does this imply study of multiple-kilogram rats? Potentially capybaras? Maybe Norwegian browns from the Bronx?).

    In humans, lethal toxicity is estimated at between 150 and 200 mg/kg, meaning that an average adult would have to consume between 80 and 100 cups of coffee in a very short period of time to induce extreme badness.

    Forensic Science International reports a couple deaths from caffeine toxicity, all resulting from overdose of caffeine pills.

    The moral seems clear: once you reach your 70th cup of the afternoon, consider switching to Benzedrine, methamphetamines or another similar stimulant.

    Join me every Monday morning for more grandtastic goodies from The Geeks' Guide to World Domination. Or if you like your geekery delivered fresh, consider subscribing to my rss feed or joining my Facebook Fan Page. (A wise person once said, "One cannot eat a blog nor can one shelter beneath it. But a book! A book made of delicious and rain repellent wood pulp! That is another thing entirely!")

    Comments

    logicman
    What is a "caffeine-related disorder not otherwise specified"?  How do I know if I have it?  Should I be worried?  Is there a cure?  Does it involve surgery?  Does it involve electroconvulsive therapy?  You've got me really stressed out.  Now I need a good strong cup of coffee.  After that, I think I'll write a paper on the asteroid belt  entitled "A gravity-related disorder not otherwise specified."
    Garth Sundem
    I believe "caffeine-related disorder not otherwise specified" is similar to the DSM-IV diagnosis of "otherwise batsh*t", which, as you might imagine, tends to be a bit of an umbrella diagnosis. The cure is 80-to-100 cups of coffee in a very short period. Or that in conjunction with electroshock and leeching. Best of luck with the gravity.
    G

    Garth Sundem, TED speaker, Wipeout loser and author of Brain Trust

    Hank
    DSM-V, should it ever make it out of endless committee meetings, is unlikely to clear any of that up.   Luckily Newton didn't have a commitee, since he hadn't invented calculus yet.
    Garth Sundem
    Isn't the cure for Newton, Einstein?
    G

    Garth Sundem, TED speaker, Wipeout loser and author of Brain Trust

    I drink 1-2 Monsters a day

    I am looking for a photometric analysis for caffeine which can be done on a general chemistry testing

    "otherwise batsh*t", yeah. Before you are able to drink 70 cups of anything in a short amount of time though, you'll be at a hospital anyways.

    Hi, just stumbled upon this article and wanted to make a comment.
    Number one, some people are far more sensitive to coffee than others and can exhibit adverse events related to toxicity with the ingestion of a single cup of coffee.
    Two: Caffeine can build up in your system and some people cant remove it as quickly as others. So...drinking 1-3 cups a day may seem "normal" and an individual doing so may be fine for a long time, but in some people, the build up of caffeine can lead to adverse events over time; not entirely unlike cholesterol. Your argument if applied to plaque buildup would go something like "well it takes 100 millions units of cholesterol to cause an artery blockage, so you'd have to eat 500 hamburgers in one day to get that much...so go ahead and enjoy!" Doesnt make sense does it?
    Remember how the old decaf coffee commercials from the 70s would make statements like "you know how irritable you get when you have coffee". They stopped that once they realized they were bad mouthing their own caffeine-containing products, but the point is, we used to know that too much coffee was bad for us!
    Now mega corporations encourage us to drink more and more and have captured an entirely new market with the iced-coffees and the sweet, desert coffee drinks. Americans consume FAR too much caffeine and we could all do with a little less irritability in our lives. Not to mention the fact that caffeine toxicity can lead to severe insomnia and psychosis.
    Thanks for your time.