NBC News reports that the county coroner, Gary Watts, declared Cripe's death the result of drinking too many caffeine-laden soft drinks. "On this particular day, within the two hours prior to his death, we know [he] had consumed a large diet Mountain Dew, a cafe latte from McDonald's, and also some type of energy drink."
It's worth noting that autopsy results on the teen showed he had consumed an unsafe level of the drinks.
"I realize this is a controversial scenario," Watts added. "There are obviously people that don't think this can happen—that you can have this arrhythmia caused by caffeine."
I'll admit I was unaware that drinking too much caffeine could do much more than just make you feel super jittery. But according to research published by the Journal of the American Heart Association in April, consuming too many energy drinks is far worse for your heart than the effects of caffeine alone. In fact, drinking 32 ounces of energy drinks may cause harmful changes in blood pressure and heart function, as it seems was the case with Cripe. Consider that a Monster energy drink in the mega size is 24 ounces per can, for instance, and contains 240 mg of caffeine.
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According to the Food and Drug Administration, drinking up to 400 mg, or what amounts to about five cups of coffee daily, is generally considered safe for adults. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, though, energy drinks should not be consumed by children or adolescents at all, and teens ages 12-18 should not exceed 100 mg of caffeine per day (the amount in one 8-oz. cup of coffee).
Although what happened to this teen is rare, Watts says there is a very important takeaway for parents: "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 [and] how it's ingested—can have dire consequences. And that's what happened in this case."
Our hearts go out to Cripe family and hope his story will serve to help other teens avoid overdosing on caffeine.
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Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.