December 22, 2014

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Autopsy finds Keystone senior died from caffeine overdose

Logan Stiner

Logan Stiner

LAGRANGE — Logan Stiner, a popular student and wrestler, was in his final week at Keystone High School when he suddenly collapsed in his home May 27.

A month after his death, an autopsy answered the pressing question of what killed him.

It was pure caffeine.

The 18-year-old Stiner was found about 11 a.m. May 27 on the floor of his home in the 400 block of Hendrix Boulevard. The same day his mother, Katie Stiner, said she found bags of caffeine powder in the house.

The case initially perplexed Logan’s friends and family, who remember Stiner as a healthy student who didn’t do drugs and only occasionally drank a cup of coffee.

The autopsy this week revealed a lethal amount of caffeine in Stiner’s system, said Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans.

“It’s a complete shock to the entire family,” said Logan’s aunt, Kelly Stiner.

Evans said he has heard of only 18 other deaths from caffeine overdoses in the United States.

Stiner was found with more than 70 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood in his system, Evans said, adding that the normal amount of caffeine in an energy drink is three to 15 micrograms.

Fifty micrograms is considered a lethal dose, Evans said.

“He was a young, healthy guy. People don’t realize (caffeine) could potentially kill you,” Evans said.

Logan Stiner — who didn’t have any heart conditions — had taken pure caffeine powder the day of his death, Evans said. The powder caused Stiner to have a cardiac arrhythmia and a seizure, which together, killed him.

“Since it’s a powder, he probably doesn’t know how much he was taking,” Evans said.

While it’s unclear to Evans how much caffeine powder or what brand of powder Logan Stiner took, a popular brand of concentrated powdered caffeine which can be purchased online recommends only 1/16th of a teaspoon per day.

Katie Stiner said she didn’t know that her son took caffeine powder, but that he once mentioned taking some kind of substance as a “pre-workout.”

“He had no clue what he was doing,” Katie Stiner said. “We talked about everything.”

Dr. Sahil Parikh, a cardiologist with University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, believes Logan Stiner’s case is unusual. Parikh said that up to four or five cups of coffee often have little effect on the heart. While caffeine and caffeine-like drugs have been known to cause cardiac arrhythmias, they are often easily curable, he said.

“It sounds like the amount that (Logan Stiner) ingested is beyond the normal amount in eating or drinking,” Parikh said.

Though pure caffeine powder is rarely found in stores, it can be bought in bulk online, something that Evans said teenagers like Logan Stiner can do easily.

“I think it’s dangerous. I didn’t realize it was sold in bulk over the Internet,” Evans said.

Logan Stiner’s family members, who said they’ve researched caffeine overdoses extensively since the teenager’s death, also were unaware that caffeine powder is easily accessible.

“We had no idea this stuff existed,” Kelly Stiner said.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was unfamiliar with caffeine powder, but did say the FDA recently started looking at the harmful effects of caffeine in general.

They are studying what caffeine can do to the human body following what they called an “influx of caffeinated energy drinks and a wide range of foods with added caffeine,” according to a news release.

For Logan Stiner’s family, the details of the 18-year-old’s death were difficult to take. Katie Stiner said her son was usually very careful about what he ate and rarely was stressed.

“Logan was at the height of his game in life,” Katie Stiner said.

Nevertheless, she said she knew her son didn’t just die of natural causes.

“I wasn’t going to let it go because I just didn’t understand,” Katie Stiner said.

Now, Katie Stiner and her family are working to recover from their devastating loss. “It’s been a month today and I don’t even know where the time went,” she said.

She hopes other teenagers will be wary of the negative effects of caffeine and caffeine powder, which she believes may be more prevalent than most people know.

“I don’t know if it’s as unusual as it seems.”

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.