Logan Stiner, a teenager from Ohio, died on May 27, 2014, from what the coroner determined to be a drug overdose. Although tragic, countless young adults die annually from drug overdoses. Like so many of the tragic overdose deaths we hear and read about, this teenager ingested too much of a powerful stimulant, sending his heart into an uncontrolled arrhythmia. What sets Logan’s death apart is not his youth, or the manner in which the drugs reacted in his body, but rather the drug itself and its source. Logan did not overdose on a common street drug. This is not the tired old story about how a young man got mixed up with the wrong crowd and experimented with drugs. That’s what we would commonly associate with teenage drug abuse. Instead, this story takes a turn that may hit closer to home. It involves caffeine. In Logan’s case, it was caffeine, a deadly stimulant, which caused his death. The popular online retailer Amazon was the supplier.
It should be noted that caffeine is far from lethal in controlled amounts. Caffeine exists naturally in certain plants, and has been added to food and drinks for decades. Coffee is a source for millions of folks everyday. In these trace amounts, caffeine is far from lethal. Overdoses can occur, but the symptoms are typically minor and include dizziness, headache, insomnia and irritability. Logan Stiner did not overdose on coffee, energy drinks, or even caffeine pills. Instead, he ingested pure synthetic caffeine powder sold as a dietary supplement, marketed and labeled much like a vitamin.
To fully comprehend how strong pure caffeine powder is, for comparison, a single teaspoon of the powder is equivalent to 25 cups of coffee. In fact, a single teaspoon of the powder can be lethal. Alarmingly, much of the pure caffeine powder sold is not accompanied with adequate warnings to alert users of the potential risks of cardiac arrhythmia or arrest. In fact, little guidance is given as to what is a safe dose.
One would think that something this potent would be illegal, or at least highly regulated. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true. Synthetic powder caffeine is unregulated. In fact, it sits on the shelves at popular vitamin and supplement shops, or can be delivered to your door from online stores. Interestingly, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all forms of caffeine except pure powder caffeine. Because powder caffeine is marketed as a dietary supplement, the FDA does not have the legal authority to regulate the dangerous chemical. While the FDA has released warnings about the dangers of pure synthetic caffeine, more must be done.
Following Logan’s death, the Stiner family has decided to voice their concern and fight the industry. The Stiners visited Washington in December of last year to plead with lawmakers to increase regulatory oversight. Additionally, the Stiners filed a wrongful death lawsuit claiming that Amazon and six other companies were responsible for the manufacturing, marketing and supply of the powder caffeine that killed their son. The Stiners allege that the pure synthetic caffeine presents a substantive danger to ordinary consumers. Additionally, the family claims the seven companies failed to warn or even disclose to consumers the significant risks associated with the powerful stimulant.
It is troubling to refer to this drug as a product, but until this product is outlawed or properly regulated, it will likely remain on the shelves of major retailers. It will be interesting to follow the Stiners’ lawsuit and their pleas to lawmakers. All too often tragedy has to happen in order to spark a call to action. As we have seen time and again in our line of work, it takes families like the Stiner family standing up to large corporations to fight for what they know is right in order to change an industry. We will watch this case closely.
Sources: CBSnews.com and Law360.com
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