Eating and nutrition

Can You Die From a Caffeine Overdose?

What happens if you drink 30 cups of coffee in one sitting?

Quick answer: you die.

Longer answer: it depends. If, if you would actually manage to drink a whopping 30 shots of espresso and keep them all in, chances are that you wouldn’t survive it. But the truth is, you would most likely throw them up long before the levels of caffeine toxicity would get anywhere near lethal.

The thing is that, in order to reach potentially deadly blood levels of caffeine, you would have to consume a huge amount of liquid (roughly 30 cups of coffee or at least 10 energy drinks) in rapid succession. First of all, your bladder would probably give up before you did. Secondly, at some point you would begin to feel the symptoms of caffeine overdose — typically one or several of the following:

  • irritability
  • headache
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

…these symptoms would play a protective role: you’d just get sick and vomit all the caffeine before it could cause fatal damage. That said, some of the listed symptoms may get severe and require immediate medical attention, so we recommend to avoid consuming excessive amounts of coffee in any case.

Heart rate painted in coffee

Image source: http://www.healthgoesup.com/

So how many cups would one need to drink to expire?

Well, the exact lethal dose of caffeine depends on person’s body weight; a heavier person can safely consume more caffeine, so would take more to kill them. You can get a rough estimate of how much you’d need to drink to die with this Death By Caffeine Calculator.

All in all, it looks like your chances of accidentally committing a caffeine suicide are incredibly low — there are two major exceptions, though:

  1. A preexisting health condition or increased sensitivity to caffeine.

Some people are genetically predisposed to be less tolerant to caffeine than most; others have underlying health problems or take medications that cause a stronger reaction to caffeine. 

  1. Consuming pure powdered caffeine, not beverages.  

Achieving toxic concentrations of caffeine by over-consuming coffee, tea, soda, and other beverages (even the generously-caffeinated energy drinks) is highly unlikely, but the caffeine powder is the whole other story. Unlike with the drinks, it’s possible to ingest a large amount of it at the same time, and a single teaspoon of powdered caffeine contains roughly as much caffeine as 25 cups of espresso. Needless to say, they are much easier to overdose on. 

Such mega-doses of caffeine can speed up the heartbeat and cause a rhythm problem possibly resulting in death, especially if there are other health factors involved. Mixing couple spoonfuls of caffeine powder into an energy drink can apparently kill a man in his twenties. Yikes. 

The bottom line is…

Coffee and caffeinated drinks are generally safe in the doses most people consume. The official Dietary Guidelines for Americans confirm that it is safe to consume up to 5 portions of coffee per day, or around 400 mg, without any detrimental effects. On top of that, it looks like having moderate amounts of coffee daily can be ridiculously good for your health!

As long as you stay away from caffeine powder or tablets, you should be just fine. Stick to your regular coffee: some is good, even downright healthy. It’s too much that could be a problem. 

So keep calm, brew a cup of java and share this post with others!