Caffeine Overdose Killed South Carolina Teen, Coroner Rules
In this undated family photo, Davis Cripe, 16, is shown with his dad Sean. According to a coroner, Cripe died April 26, 2017 from "caffeine-induced cardiac event, with probable arrhythmia."Courtesy Family
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Watts said he hoped the case would get the word out and help prevent more such deaths.
"The purpose here today is not to slam Mountain Dew, not to slam cafe lattes, or energy drinks. But what we want to do is to make people understand that these drinks — this amount of caffeine, how it's ingested, can have dire consequences. And that's what happened in this case," Watts said.
Caffeine prompts the release of natural compounds called catecholamines, including norepinephrine, a stress hormone that can speed the heart rate. People who have died from documented caffeine overdoses had irregular and rapid heart rates, seizures and sometimes choked on their own vomit.
A 12-ounce Mountain Dew contains 54 mg of caffeine. McDonald’s does not report the amount of caffeine in its coffee.
Watts said conversations with Cripe's friends and classmates helped them figure out what he had to eat and drink in the hours before he died.
"Davis, like so many other kids and so many other people out there today, were doing something that they thought was totally harmless, and that was ingesting lots of caffeine," Watts said.
Maggie Fox is a senior writer for NBC News and TODAY, covering health policy, science, medical treatments and disease.