Teen Dies of an Overdose From Things We Drink Every Day

teen dies from caffeine overdose
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When you hear about a teen dying of an accidental overdose, you probably suspect drugs or alcohol would be the culprit. But for one South Carolina teen, the stimulant that ultimately caused his untimely death was one many of us -- especially moms -- take in just about every day. Davis Allen Cripe, 16, died after consuming a dangerous combination of caffeinated coffee, energy, and soft drinks

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The deadly concoction caused Cripe to suffer arrhythmia, a condition in which there's a serious problem with the rate or rhythm of your heart. At a news conference, Richland County coroner Gary Watts explained what they know about this heartbreaking and shocking loss.  

"On this particular day within the two hours prior to his death, we know [Cripe] had consumed a large diet Mountain Dew, a cafe latte from McDonald's, and also some type of energy drink. It was so much caffeine at the time of his death that it caused his arrhythmia," Watts said.

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Of course, we don't know what Davis was doing that day, but we do know plenty of students rely on caffeinated drinks to get them through all-nighters ahead of finals, sporting events, and even proms. Moms and dads, too, count on those jolts of caffeine to get through the day, especially when our sleep is interrupted by a newborn or teething toddler. 

Watts explained that Cripe's death is reason to reconsider how much caffeine each of us -- and particularly our kids -- consumes daily.

"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," Watts said.

Cripe's heartbroken dad, Sean, also spoke at the news conference, perhaps in the hope that in sharing the circumstances of his loss, he might prevent another parent from experiencing the same thing.

"It wasn't a car crash that took his life. Instead, it was an energy drink," he said. "Parents, please talk to your kids about these energy drinks."

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Because they're typically colorful and marketed to kids, it's easy to understand why tweens, teens, and parents wouldn't immediately see the danger in most energy drinks.

Yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics is of the mindset that "stimulant-containing energy drinks have no place in the diets of children and adolescents." Futher, the AAP recommends limiting teens to no more than 100 mg a day of caffeine. 

But, as Marcie Beth Schneider, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and coauthor of the study Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?, points out, "In many cases, it's hard to tell how much caffeine is in a product by looking at the label. Some cans or bottles of energy drinks can have more than 500 mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of 14 cans of soda."

That's terrifying when you think about it. We're always preaching "moderation" to our kids, but if just one can or one bottle holds this much caffeine, consuming even one serving may already be way too much.

Our hearts break for Cripe's family, but we're so grateful that they're shining a spotlight on this often-overlooked danger that may well be lurking in our kitchens.

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