Woody Smith of Dayton, Kentucky killed his 28 year old wife in May of last year. The prosecution claims it was murder. Smith’s defense said he was insane, not aware of what he was doing due to caffeine pills and energy drinks, leading to such severe sleep deprivation that he strangled his wife.
The defense may not have an easy time. Smith admits he was thinking his spouse was seeing another man, a subject that kept him up night after night. And though severe sleep deprivation can lead to hallucinations, they are usually around perceptions, and do not lead to murder.
Can caffeinism make people act crazy? Yes. But there is a difference between being superbuzzed and the type of hallucinations that comes with amphetamines and more powerful stimulants – and many times those hallucinations appear when going off the pills.
I am reminded of a case I was asked to see of a young man who had walked across a drive way to stomp a neighbor to death. The defense thought he had acted from severe sleep deprivation. The truth was that he had been psychotic for more than a year, and his family had never brought him for treatment.
So did caffeine make Woody do it? The jurors will make their decision, but the reasons were probably far more complex than sleep loss and overdosing on caffeine. A good thing, too – for all its faults, caffeine is one of the most useful drugs out there.
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