In Defense of Caffeine Pills

In college, I used to measure out a small amount of caffeine powder in milligrams, put it in a gel cap, pop it, and repeat it throughout the day. A mountain of dusty substance two inches high stood in Scarface style on a piece of paper on my then boyfriend’s desk next to a scale and next to a bag of caps. I took an average of 30 or so milligrams apiece three to four times a day when I started to feel sleepy. Periodically, the lids opened before I swallowed, and my mouth filled with the harsh, bitter taste of powdered caffeine.

When I returned to Brooklyn after graduation, I ditched the cold turkey without even thinking about it – unlike its liquid equivalent, there is almost no routine in terms of consuming powdered caffeine; is to coffee what Soylent is to food. I didn’t even realize I was hooked until I started having cold sweats, migraines, and body cramps a few days after quitting caffeine, when I gave up my daily habit of consuming 120 mg of caffeine. I was able to find a $ 10 bottle with 100 200mg capsules (about five cents per pill) in the supplement department at my local pharmacy, and my body immediately calmed down. Since then, I’ve stuck with the preliminarily limited amount of caffeine instead of powder for no reason other than lightness (although there are safety reasons to make this switch too – more on that later). Caffeine in powder rather than liquid form is potent: here’s what to know before dosing for coffee haters and coffee lovers alike.

The Basics of Caffeine Safety

Caffeine is the most commonly used legal psychoactive drug in the world . More than half of American adults consume at least 300 mg of caffeine per day, making it the most widely used drug in America . Your average eight-ounce cup of coffee probably contains about 100 mg of caffeine; 20 oz Starbucks Blonde Roast beer contains 475 mg; a can of diet cola – 76 mg; in a 5-hour dose of 200 mg energy, all in accordance with the table provided by the Center for Science in the Public Interest .

There are several notoriously controversial health studies that proclaim the various pros and cons of caffeine: it causes cancer, cures cancer, shortens life expectancy, lengthens life expectancy, and more. On one point, however, healthcare professionals generally agree, though, is is that moderate consumption of caffeine does not pose a health hazard. In the short term, it is important to know that there is such a thing as ingesting dangerous and even fatal amounts of caffeine.

Liquid caffeine alone is difficult to overdose – you will need to drink several cups of coffee one after the other. When serious caffeine overdoses occur (and they are quite rare , especially for such a generic drug), they are obvious: vomiting, abdominal pain and cramps are all symptoms. Always call 911 for seizures or other serious symptoms. In the event of a mild overdose, when your symptoms are just a nervous tremor, you can probably just stay calm, drink some water and wait. If anything in between, or if you’re unsure, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or use their online tool .

Here are some basic facts about the safety of caffeine:

  • A healthy adult is advised to consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day .
  • An eight-ounce cup of coffee typically contains about 100 mg or less of caffeine.
  • 10,000 to 14,000 mg of caffeine is considered the lethal dose by the FDA.

Today my plastic container of Nutricost caffeine pills is in the corner of my medicine cabinet. It is labeled in small print as “Nutritional Supplement” and is adorned with a blue metal strip and the molecular structure of trimethylxanthine, the chemical compound that makes up pure caffeine. The container originally contained 50,000 mg of caffeine – enough to be a lethal dose for at least three people, based on the FDA’s estimate of a lethal dose of caffeine of 10,000 to 14,000 mg per healthy adult. I usually limit my own intake to one 200 mg tablet each morning – well below 400 mg a day (the equivalent of four or so 8-ounce cups of coffee), the maximum recommended amount for a healthy adult. Although bottles of 100 mg caffeine tablets are available, smaller doses are rare.

Stick to pills, not powder

In response to the deaths in 2014 of 18-year-old Logan Steener and 24-year-old James Wade Swatt due to excessive caffeine consumption, the FDA banned certain pure caffeinated products in 2018. This came less than three years after the FDA issued a warning letter to some caffeine powder manufacturers in 2015. “It should be as illegal as heroin,” Steener’s mother told NBC of the caffeine powder in an interview after his death.

In a 2018 report , the FDA made it clear that it considers counterfeit and poorly labeled bulk products as major health hazards. At one point in the FDA report, the problem of caffeine packaged in “tiny scoops” is very specific, as a single dose, because when the caffeine is split between “several people living separately,” some consumers are deprived of the “scoop advantage “.

Headlines often suggest that a teaspoon of pure caffeine powder can be deadly. This is true, but more importantly, it makes it clear that most people are so unfamiliar with the correct dosage of caffeine that they literally look at the amount they consume or use kitchen utensils to measure it off . The difference between the lethal amount of powder and the amount in most cups of coffee is not so noticeable – a properly calibrated scale is essential for any level of accuracy. Bottom line: Powdered caffeine is becoming more difficult and requires additional tools and precision to be consumed in safe doses, so both for convenience and safety, you’re much better off sticking to it in pill form.

You will save money and the environment

The reason I prefer coffee to coffee is simple, if blasphemous: I don’t like the taste of coffee. Also, I like the heightened awareness bordering on mania that comes with taking the full dose at the same time. This is obviously not for everyone, and when I took too much caffeine and broke the 400 mg recommendation, I became predictably frantic and restless, my heart palpitated, clammy palms and increased anxiety. Addiction to caffeine pills and aversion to coffee are also unintentionally antisocial. In liquid form, this medicine represents one of the most unifying experiences of mankind on a daily basis. As I understand it, I usually swallow a small white pill dry in silence.

However, there are some bonuses to caffeine pills for those who prefer them, including price and environmental impact. My coffee addiction costs me less than $ 50 a year, while the average American worker spends about $ 1,100 a year on coffee. Also, although I recycle two or three plastic bottles a year, there is a lot of waste in the coffee industry: K-Cups and other disposable coffee capsules are often slammed shut and banned for being non-recyclable. The vast majority of coffee cups are still disposable and also harmful to the environment.

Plus, there are no calories in caffeinated pills (although gelatin, rice, and flour are listed as optional ingredients on my bottle label) and cannot serve as a vessel for cream and other sweet sweeteners. And from the looks of it, caffeine pills are better for you and less dangerous than energy drinks , which often combine large doses of caffeine with a lot of sugar and sometimes thoughtlessly mixed with alcohol.

If we, as a society, have learned anything from the original Four Loko recipe, it is that humankind blindly trusts widespread branded jars, even if they contain, in fact, literal poison. The safety of combining caffeine and taurine , an ingredient often found in high doses of energy drinks, is still under question. The consumption of energy drinks by minors is not bad: it is bad, and yet there is no age limit for the purchase of energy drinks (in this country).

There is no evidence that quitting smoking is a very different experience for consumers of caffeine in its liquid form and in pill form, although the sterilized experience of drinking their daily cup of coffee means there is not much routine and no sugar to go with. skip. The increase in tolerance is also more or less similar: the caffeine chemical is no more addictive as a powder than as a drink – you will always need more and more to achieve the same effect, regardless of the form in which you take the caffeine.

Want to switch? First, know that everyone will think you are a monster. Social stigma is the hardest part. Finding pills is easy: they can be found in most chain stores with a pharmacy department (Target, Walmart, Rite Aid), as well as in some local pharmacies, and of course they are available online, which is unfortunately the best place to buy. if you are picky. about which brand you prefer. As with most things in life, buying in bulk is cheaper.

When using, be sure to keep in mind the recommendation of 400 mg per day – two to four tablets per day, depending on the brand and dosage. For many, it is quite uncomfortable to overcome it, and you will feel more nervous and anxious than being awake. While they look a lot more like caffeine powder than coffee, pre-packaged caffeinated pills aren’t very dangerous unless you’re a real child or take a handful right away.

It’s hard to argue with the undesirability of caffeine pills and the appeal of coffee. One has a reputation for being an investigational drug that nourishes all night long and the other is a vital pleasure in adulthood. While the environmental impact, cost, and calorie intake of caffeinated pills in society is real, if you take a step forward, be prepared for the fact that you will most likely do it alone.

This article was originally published in 2018 and updated on March 12, 2020 by Elizabeth Yuko. Updates include the following: Checked links for accuracy and updated formatting to reflect the current style.

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