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Drugs & Health Blog

Caffeine Is No Do-It-Yourself Project

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The NIDA Blog Team

With a Starbucks on nearly every corner and soda served at every barbeque, it’s not hard to figure out that we Americans love our caffeinated beverages. And like most everything else, caffeine is better in moderation. But it can be tough to moderate your how much you consume if you're adding pure caffeine powder to your drink.

Caffeine powder: handle with care

Last summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a safety advisory about caffeine powders. Sold in bulk bags online, caffeine powder may seem like an easy alternative for people who don’t care for coffee or soda. But that’s the thing—it’s not easy. Just 1 teaspoon of pure caffeine powder is equal to 25 cups of coffee. This is a deadly amount of coffee.

In fact, consuming too much caffeine powder has contributed to at least 2 deaths and 30 medical problems. Even it doesn’t kill you, a caffeine overdose is extremely unpleasant and may include fast and erratic heartbeat, seizure, vomiting, diarrhea, or confusion.

Safety first

A bag of powdered caffeine also could be deadly to have around the house—where someone might confuse the pure white powder for sugar or flour, or a pet could get into it. Just a tiny bit could be lethal to an animal.

Even if you are a master chef, measuring out the tiny amount of powder that would give you the energy boost you seek is nearly impossible with standard kitchen measuring spoons.

The bottom line: Avoid powdered caffeine, and you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

Tell us in comments: What do you do when you need an energy boost?

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


How does it happen though
How addictive is caffeine in comparison to other drugs?

Hi Johnny!  That's not an easy question to answer.  "Addictiveness" depends on the strength and amount of the caffeine, and the person's height, weight, genetic make-up and how often they consume caffeine—in short, there are too many variables to say one way or another.  However, we can say that caffeine causes mild physical dependence, but doesn't affect your physical and mental health they way addiction to prescription and illicit drugs can.  

Caffeine powder sounds harmful. What exactly is it? The way it's named, it sounds like an ingredient of some sort.

Caffeine is a naturally occuring stimulant that can be found in coffee beans, tea leaves, chocolate, and kola nuts.  Caffeine powder is pure caffeine, extracted from these plants, into a form that can be added to food and drinks.

Pure caffeine powder isn't the stuff they put in soda right? Because i drink a fair amount of soda and I haven't died yet, but could that happen if you drink enough soda or other caffeinated beverages over the years?

Hi John.  It would be very difficult to drink enough soda, coffee, or even energy drinks to overdose on caffeine.  However, caffeine powder and caffeine pills have high concentrations of caffeine that can cause overdoses when used in excess.  

I knew caffeine was bad for you, but this is worse than I realized. Does the caffeine in sodas and coffees gradually affect your system over time?

People react to caffeine differently, depending on how often, and how much you ingest. Remember that many sodas also have a high sugar content, which can also cause side effects. Some people decide to quit drinking/eating caffeine because it makes them shake too much, or keeps them awake at night. Others can have a couple of cups a coffee a day with no problem. You can experiment with decaffeinated beverages to see if they make a difference. If you suddenly stop using caffeine after regular use, you can get a headache and other side effects so you might consider a gradual reduction. Check with a nutritionist or health provider about the best way to reduce your caffeine intake. You should listen to what your body is telling you, and speak with your health care provider about it. Good luck.

what was the original use for caffine?

Caffeine is found naturally in coffee beans, tea leaves, chocolate, and kola nuts. Caffeine powder is pure caffeine, extracted from these plants.