Symptoms Of Caffeine Withdrawal
Just as taking in too much caffeine can present issues, so can suddenly removing it from your diet. This can result in caffeine withdrawal, which produces symptoms that are the opposite of consuming too much. This effect can be especially profound in people who are addicted to caffeine.
The symptom most often noticed by people going through caffeine withdrawal is a headache, which may range from mild to severe. Other symptoms associated with trying to cut back your caffeine habit or missing your daily “dose” are:
- Slower reaction times
- Worsened performance on memory tasks
Occasionally, people withdrawing from caffeine also experience flu-like symptoms, such as nausea as well as mood changes.
How Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms Happen
Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant that decreases drowsiness by blocking adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter connected to the bodys sleep-wake processes. By blocking the receptors, caffeine can allow a person to experience a temporary, improved feeling of wakefulness.
Caffeine also boosts other hormones and neurotransmitters like adrenaline and dopamine, and reduces blood flow to the brain.
The withdrawal symptoms happen as the brain works to adjust to functioning without caffeine. Fortunately, caffeine withdrawal does not last long and symptoms are considered to be relatively mild.
- mood changes
Functional Impairment And Severity
The DSM-5 states that one key goal for the proposed research diagnosis of Caffeine Use Disorder is to stimulate research investigating the association of the diagnosis with clinically significant distress and functional impairment. Although some studies have already shown functional impairment during withdrawal,,, additional studies using a range of volunteer-rated, observer-rated, behavioral, and cognitive measures of impairment during withdrawal will be important.
Whether distress and functional impairment occur at times other than during caffeine abstinence should also be investigated. Thus, more prospective empirical investigations of the relationship between Caffeine Use Disorder and functional impairment during chronic caffeine administration are needed. Future research should also include surveys administered in medical settings to patients and health care providers to assess the prevalence, severity, and functional impairment of Caffeine Use Disorder among patients who present with symptoms of the disorder.
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What Is Caffeine Withdrawal
Caffeine is a stimulant and can be chemically addictive. Although it doesnt necessarily jeopardize health the same way other drugs do, it is possible to develop a dependence. Quitting caffeine abruptly, especially if youve been consuming two or more cups of coffee a day, can cause physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms. In fact, caffeine intoxication and caffeine withdrawal are classified as mental disorders in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders when either one interferes with daily life.
Withdrawal can occur with abstinence from daily doses as low as 100 mg a day, but the likelihood and severity of symptoms increases with higher amounts. There is even a genetic propensity toward caffeine withdrawal, so if someone in your family has experienced the effects, you might need to take extra precautions when cutting back.
Breaking Your Caffeine Habit
Experts in the Sutter Health network can help you reduce, or even eliminate, your caffeine consumption habit.
Sutter Medical Foundation
Sutter Davis Hospital
If you drink multiple sodas or cups of coffee during the day and dont feel alert without it, it might be time to rethink your relationship with caffeine.
Eight out of 10 adults in the United States are habitual daily coffee drinkers, according to the Food and Drug Administration. In addition to coffee and sodas, caffeine can be found in some teas, chocolate and even our medicines.
Ron Cotterel, M.D., M.S., a family medicine and integrative family physician with Sutter Medical Foundation, says caffeine is the No. 1 stimulant of choice around the globe, and one of the most commonly abused addictive substances available. It changes the way we behave and feel, even improving the effects of some pain relievers, which makes it a powerful substance.
Caffeine can be found in numerous nonprescription medications including NoDoz, Excedrin, Anacin, Vanquish and Bromo-Seltzer, Dr. Cotterel says. Its an alkaloid, a member of a family of thousands of naturally occurring chemicals including quinine, nicotine, morphine, codeine, methamphetamine, ephedrine and mescaline.
Caffeines addictive qualities make it difficult to quit. When we use caffeine every day, our bodies become accustomed to it and need more to achieve the same feeling of alertness. This can lead to a physical dependence on caffeine.
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- Low energy
Gradually reducing Caffeine intake over several weeks instead of quitting cold turkey can help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Compared to other addictions, the withdrawal and recovery periods from Caffeine are relatively short. Most Caffeine addiction symptoms can be resolved in 7-12 days of consumption reduction. During that period, the brain will naturally decrease the number of adenosine receptors on each cell in response to the sudden lack of Caffeine. If an individual can decrease intake until it becomes nothing, within a few weeks the levels of adenosine receptors in the brain will reset to their baseline levels the addiction will be broken.
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Should You Quit Cold Turkey Or Gradually
There are two schools of thought about the best way to beat a caffeine addiction quit suddenly or quit gradually.
The key to deciding is knowing yourself and how you normally respond to these kinds of challenges.
From a neuroscientific perspective, taking small steps gives you time to actually rewire your brain to create new, healthier habits.
However, many people are excited by big goals like quitting cold turkey.
Setting bold goals provides a nice boost of the neurotransmitter dopamine, known as the motivation molecule.
Johns Hopkins University researchers, who have studied caffeine withdrawal in depth, endorse a gradual approach to minimize withdrawal symptoms.
Heres a simple plan to quit drinking coffee gradually by swapping out 25% regular coffee with decaffeinated coffee each week for one month.
This plan can be adapted to any other caffeinated beverage that has a decaffeinated option as well.
A major advantage of this stepped plan is that you dont need to make any behavioral changes to succeed.
And since there are many neuroprotective compounds in coffee besides caffeine, you can feel confident that your decaf coffee is still a brain-healthy drink.
Minimize Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal With The 25% Solution
Week 1: Drink 75% regular, 25% decaf.
Week 2: Drink 50% regular, 50% decaf.
Week 3: Drink 25% regular, 75% decaf.
Week 4: Drink 100% decaf.
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How Do You Kick Out Caffeine Addiction
According to Jillian Kubala, MS, RD, Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal should only last between two and nine days, with peak intensity of symptoms occurring 2451 hours after caffeine is cut out. I can attest to this terrible ordeals length, and of course, I did it backward.
Jillian recommends cutting back slowly, or replacing one form for another. However, the tea has slightly less caffeine. Not enough to matter, but it has less. Quitting cold turkey can shock the body and make withdrawal symptoms worse. Well, damn.
The experts say to replace some caffeinated drinks with water, or the decaf equivalent. More water is essential because if you get dehydrated, the headache and fatigue will be worse.
To combat the fatigue, you need to be getting enough sleep. The magic number of hours is between 7-9. Dont try to pull an all-nighter and quit caffeine simultaneously that just sounds disastrous!
Last but not least, find natural ways of boosting your energy. Those vitamin patches probably would have helped a little more had I started them the week before. Exercise and nutrient-filled foods are another way to keep that energy level up. Yoga, meditation, and other stress-reducing activities will also help!
Overcome Your Need For Caffeine This Week
To recap, here are the steps you need to take:
Follow this method, and you can be free of your need for caffeine within five days. Youll still be drinking a beverage you love, and best of all, youll have more energy than youve had in months maybe even years.
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How Much Caffeine Does It Take To Get Addicted
How much caffeine do you need to consume to become addicted?
Not as much as you might think.
Average daily consumption of caffeine is 280 mg, but 100 mg per day is enough to lead to physical dependence and significant withdrawal symptoms.
A Johns Hopkins Medicine review of over 170 years of caffeine withdrawal research concluded that you can become addicted to caffeine from as little as one daily cup of coffee.
For an accurate assessment of your daily caffeine consumption, youll find the caffeine content of hundreds of drinks and foods in this caffeine database at CaffeineInformer.com.
How To Prevent Caffeine Addiction
It starts off small, you feel tired and you dont need much to do the trick.
But as with any drug, you start to need a stronger dose, more often.
Some people stop at one or two cups of coffee, but I have seen people drinking multiple double espressos in one cup, three to four times a day!
You may think that this is a minor addiction to have no big deal.
Personally, I dont want to wake up and not be able to function without a caffeine fix.
Ideally, I want to rely on my body to wake itself up. Reaching for a coffee every time your energy levels slip just means you become dependant.
Long term this dependence can affect your sleep, concentration, productivity, and even lead to anxiety and stress.
Caffeine is a great performance enhancer. It can reduce fatigue, increase focus, and improve sporting performance, particularly with endurance and aerobic activities thanks to its fatigue delaying benefits.
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Dealing With The Withdrawal
Some withdrawal symptoms are easier to handle than others, but Bonci reminds all her clients that every symptom will pass eventually. And there are tricks you can use to minimize them in the meantime.
For people who have come to rely on caffeine as a gut stimulator , constipation might crop up in its absence. In Boncis experience, this tends to pass in just a day or two. The rest of the symptoms, like headaches and sluggishness, tend to peak the first day you start reducing your caffeine intake, and will get significantly better as the days and weeks go on.
Theres no question: this is going to be rough road. And symptoms vary from person to person, says Bonci. During my first week without caffeine, in addition to some pretty frustrating headaches and fogginess, I had a recurring dream in which I went to my favorite espresso bar and drank the best latte macchiato of my life. It was amazing, and then I woke up.
Bonci recommends a few other tips: exercise and low-caffeine alternatives. Exercise itself is a stimulant, particularly because you are energizing your body by being physically active and not sitting at a desk. Plus, she says, the endorphins released when you do intensive physical activity can give you at least a small feeling of euphoria, which in turn provides better blood flow and more focus. Thats precisely the same kind of thing that caffeine does, except it does it for a shorter period of time, says Bonci.
Deterrence And Patient Education
The public perception of caffeine is as of a drug with just a trivial impact on human health compared to other drugs. However, caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the world, so it makes it a major public health concern. Many of the individuals who develop a dependence on caffeine are unable to reduce consumption despite the knowledge of recurrent health impacts associated with continued caffeine use. The high-risk population is teenagers, adolescents, students, heavy-duty workers, and night shift workers especially. Caffeine withdrawal should be a high index of suspicion in these group of the patient presenting with headache, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and feeling foggy/not clearheaded.
Individuals determined to overcome caffeine dependence should be advised to gradually decrease caffeine consumption to prevent the caffeine-withdrawal syndrome.
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How Can You Tell If Youre Dependent On Caffeine
Addicott says caffeine dependence is more about the way the substance affects your day-to-day functioningthan it is about the actual amount you consume each day. Theres no specific number of cups, or milligrams of caffeine, per day that signifies a problem instead, Addicott says, its more about how distressed people feel if they cant get caffeine when they want it, and how much of a disruption it causes in their daily life. Its more of a subjective threshold, she says.
That said, most experts recommend that adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day . If you regularly drink more than that, you may be at risk of side effects including sleep disruption, migraines and other headaches, quickened heartbeat, muscle tremors, irritability, nervousness and an upset stomach, according to the Mayo Clinic. For some people, those side effects can kick in with even fewer cups, as caffeine tolerance tends to be highly individual.
If you experience physical side effects, have trouble dialing back your consumption or feel totally out of sorts when you cant get your daily fix, these are signs that you may be dependent on caffeine, and you should consider cutting back, Addicott says.
Opt For Herbal Teas & Healthy Juices
Another alternative to your cup of coffee is herbal teas. You can prepare rejuvenating herbal teas with a variety of herbs such as licorice, rosemary, lavender, and chicory. You can also opt for various blends of herbs available at the health food stores.
If you are not so much into herbs, consider replacing your daily cup of coffee with healthy fruit juices or, better yet, filling smoothies. For instance, you can prepare an energy-boosting drink by juicing together 2 cups each of spinach and kale, 4 celery stalks, 1 green apple, ½ cucumber, and ½ lemon.
You can also blend these along with some plain yogurt or coconut water in a high-speed blender to make a green smoothie for breakfast.
Some other beverages that you can substitute for coffee include fermented kambucha tea with probiotic benefits and super hydrating tender coconut water which works as a natural sports drink! If you are used to milky latte, develop a taste for hot milky drinks such as hot vanilla milk, hot strawberry milk, hot spiced milk, and hot ginger milk.
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How Can You Beat Caffeine Dependence
The hardest but most important step may be convincing yourself that you dont need caffeine in the first place. Many people feel that its necessary for success at work or school, but the substance actually doesnt make a dramatic impact on the brain or cognitive performance, Addicott says in fact, caffeine dependence is closely intertwined with its perceived effects.
When you drink a certain amount of caffeine every single day, your body adapts to that and maintains the normal baseline performance, Addicott says. When you dont get that much caffeine, you go through withdrawal, which can actually lower your performance. So then it feels like caffeine is having this strong effect and improving the ability to concentrate, but its really not. Its just bringing you back to that normal baseline.
Once you recognize and break this cycle, Addicott says, youll be able to achieve the same results without a steady stream of espresso shots. Of course, thats easier said than done and unfortunately, Addicott says that the only real way to do it is to wean yourself off of caffeinated drinks slowly but surely.
How To Overcome Caffeine Addiction
This article was medically reviewed by Sarah Gehrke, RN, MS. Sarah Gehrke is a Registered Nurse and Licensed Massage Therapist in Texas. Sarah has over 10 years of experience teaching and practicing phlebotomy and intravenous therapy using physical, psychological, and emotional support. She received her Massage Therapist License from the Amarillo Massage Therapy Institute in 2008 and a M.S. in Nursing from the University of Phoenix in 2013.There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 107,327 times.
Caffeine is a drug and can be highly addictive. If you’re tired of relying on coffee or energy drinks to get through the day, there are ways to cut back on caffeine. Start tapering off caffeine gradually. Adjust your life as necessary. You may, for example, have to opt for decaf beverages during social settings. You can expect a headache and other symptoms of withdrawal, so manage those accordingly to stay on track.
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How Much Is Too Much
Most experts agree moderate amounts of caffeine wont harm you, but drinking more than 600 mg of coffee or other caffeinated drinks each day is too much. Heres a breakdown of how much caffeine is in some of the most common caffeine sources:
- One cup of coffee has 100 to 150 mg of caffeine, depending on the brewing method.
- One cup of black tea has 50 to 75 mg of caffeine, half as much as a cup of coffee.
- One can of soda has about 35 mg of caffeine.
- A bar of milk chocolate has 6 mg of caffeine.
- A cup of decaf coffee still has 4 mg of caffeine.