Logan Stiner was just like any other teenager. The Ohio student had been nominated as prom king and was on the verge of graduation. It was May 2014. Tragically, however, the 18-year-old would never make his grad party. His brother discovered him lying dead at home. A bag of a white powder was also found nearby. But the powder which killed the youngster was not heroin or cocaine. Readily available to buy on the internet, it is sold as a health supplement – even though just a tiny dose can be lethal.
Stiner was a popular senior student at Keystone High School in Lagrange, southwest of Cleveland, Ohio. A happy-go-lucky teen, he had recently been voted king of his prom and was days away from graduation.
The bright young man had been admitted into Toledo University where he was due to study chemical engineering. He was excited that he would be joined there by his girlfriend, Morgan Myers.
Stiner had been a keen wrestler for several years, and in his senior year he was a state qualifier after clinching 128 victories. He also enjoyed hunting with his family on trips to their camp in Pennsylvania.
Away from the wrestling ring and his family, Stiner was, by all accounts, just like any other 18-year-old. He liked to relax with friends, often going to the movies or watching TV with his brother, Dylan.
In his final post to his Twitter account, Stiner announced details of a graduation party he was due to host with a friend. Tragically, it was a party the student – who seemed to have such a bright future in front of him – would never attend.
On May 27, 2014, Stiner was found dead by his brother Dylan at around 11 a.m. The 18-year-old had collapsed on the floor of the family home. Stiner’s aunt, Kelly, said his death was, “a complete shock to the entire family.”
Stiner’s shocking death was baffling to his family. He was a healthy teenager, fond of wrestling. He never did drugs and rarely even drank coffee – though his mother, Katie, did know that he took a “pre-workout” substance.
On the day of Stiner’s death, his mother found a quantity of the substance her son had been taking. But it wasn’t heroin or cocaine that had led to her son’s tragic death. It was pure caffeine powder.
Stiner had suffered a seizure along with cardiac arrhythmia. Caused entirely by the caffeine powder, the combination had proven to be deadly. His family said, “We had never heard of caffeine powder. Now we think about it every day.”
Caffeine is the most widely available – and consumed – psychoactive drug in the world. It is found in everyday foodstuffs such as coffee, sodas, energy drinks and chocolate. In such forms, the substance isn’t very dangerous.
Caffeinated foods and drinks are closely regulated by the FDA. However, as it is sold as a dietary supplement, caffeine in its pure form is exempt from the same levels of scrutiny – even though it can easily be fatal as a powder.
Safe doses of caffeine are measured in milligrams. Just a pound of powder is the equivalent of up to 5,000 coffees, or nearly 16,000 cans of cola. A safe dose would not even fill a fraction of a teaspoon and is impossible to measure using the kind of equipment found in most kitchens.
Drinking a typical energy drink can raise a person’s caffeine levels to up to 15 micrograms per milliliter of blood, which is a perfectly safe level for most people. Fifty micrograms per milliliter, however, can be fatal. Stiner was found to have caffeine levels in excess of 70 micrograms per milliliter of his blood.
A month after Stiner’s death, James Wade Sweatt also died after consuming pure powdered caffeine. A newlywed and a recent graduate from Georgia, he was just 24 years old. Both young men were smart, clean-living and health-conscious.
The parents of both men discovered that the caffeine their sons had obtained was readily available on the internet and cheap to purchase. Sweatt had gone to the trouble of downloading a chart to help him work out the correct dosage for him. But the precautions he took weren’t enough to save his life.
Following Stiner’s death, his parents filed a lawsuit against retailers distributing the lethal substance. They said, “We must do everything we can to get this product off the market and away from children.”
As a result of the tragedy, the FDA issued a safety warning concerning pure caffeine, recommending that companies take the product off the market. It began to build a case for imposing a ban on the product if those companies failed to comply.
In response to the FDA’s warnings, some retailers have ceased selling pure caffeine. Others have made their products safer by taking the self-regulatory step of selling it in pill form. It is, however, still easy to buy online.
Stiner’s family say lessons must be learned from their son’s death. “Logan was at the height of his game in life,” his mother said. “It was tragic. He had a busy week and thought it wouldn’t hurt.” Sadly, it did.