How Much Coffee Can Kill You?

Lethal weapon: It would take about 42 cups of coffee to kill you

Between the Arctic weather, the long days with kids home from school and a communal case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (listen to Tom Ashbrook’s excellent segment on this yesterday) blanketing the region, I’ve been drinking more than my share of coffee to keep on top of things — probably triple my normal daily dose. I’m guessing I’m not alone here.

So I was pleased to read this report in The New York Times that said for caffeine to be lethal, it would probably take a lot more than a few new Starbucks Trentas. According to the piece, you’d need to drink about 42 cups of coffee in one sitting to kill you.

Still, caffeine overdoses are not uncommon:

Concentrations of caffeine in blood plasma that are higher than 15 milligrams per liter of blood can cause toxic reactions, and caffeine overdoses are a relatively common cause of poisoning emergencies, with 4,183 such cases reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 2007.Only one death occurred among those cases.

When caffeine does kill, the reported causes are abnormal heart rhythms, seizures and breathing in vomit.

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  • Umbra Unum

    i disagree with you, I have been drinking coffee since i was 7 years old, I am 25 now. Sometimes I find myself drinking coffee all day long. I have yet to break a single bone, am not of risk for osteoporosis or gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease. My doctor says I am healthy as an ox. so our statement is invalid and dumb. :)

  • Catzie3

    Probably because a disproportionate amount of people who drink a lot of coffee are sitting at a desk or behind the wheel rather than standing, walking or doing other load bearing exercise. Outside of malnutrition, there’s no good reason to implicate diet in osteoporosis–if you do load bearing exercise, your bones get strong.

  • Alison Bass

    The issue is not whether coffee could be lethal as an overdose but its long-term side effects. A lifetime of drinking a few cups of coffee a day has been implicated with an increased risk of osteoporisis, broken bones and gastrointestinal esopheal reflux disease, among other problems. So those trips to Starbucks do mount up over the years.