How can I cut my caffeine intake?

Most people report a very good success ratio by cutting down caffeine intake at the rate of 1/2 cup of coffee a day. This is known as Caffeine Fading. Alternatively you might try reducing coffee intake in discrete steps of two-five cups of coffee less per week (depending on how high is your initial intake). If you are drinking more than 10 cups of coffee a day, you should seriously consider cutting down.

The best way to proceed is to consume caffeine regularly for a week, while keeping a precise log of the times and amounts of caffeine intake (remember that chocolate, tea, soda beverages and many headache pills contain caffeine as well as coffee). At the end of the week proceed to reduce your coffee intake at the rate recommended above. Remember to have substitutes available for drinking: if you are not going to have a hot cup of coffee at your 10 minute break, you might consider having hot chocolate or herbal tea, but NOT decaff, since decaff has also been shown to be addictive. This should take you through the works without much problem.

Some other people quit cold turkey. Withdrawal symptoms are quite nasty this way (see section below) but they can usually be countered with lots of sleep and exercise. Many people report being able to stop drinking caffeine almost cold-turkey while on holidays on the beach. If quitting cold turkey is proving too hard even in the beach, drinking a coke might help.

Comments

Any advice on weaning, please?

Hello, it's me again :/    I've been trying to stop drinking coffee since last March (2012), without any long term success. I think that in trying to 'go cold turkey' many times, I actually made my addiction worse. Eventually, it seemed that I had deepened my physical and psychological need for caffeine, as in trying to be 'all or nothing' (and with my eating habits, as well), I just couldn't make that transition for any length of time. All I could think about, all of the time, was when I was going to have my next cup of coffee, Like an alcoholic, the first thing I wanted in the morning was coffee. Coffee was my crutch for all of my problems and fears and I really did feel like I couldn't do without it.  At Christmas, I was back up to my 6 large mugs a day and I was eating tons of sugar/biscuits/cakes etc. After Christmas, I felt so awful (same old story!) and I really felt utterly defeated. I felt I had no willpower and was a complete failure. Worse, I was scared for my health as I felt really ill and like a zombie for most of the time, on ly managing to do my day with caffeine. And yet, I couldn't sleep.   But then I read something and  it gave me hope. An addiction site said that when a habit or pattern of thinking and behaviour is deeply ingrained, willpower alone won't change it. It said that you have to slowly work at CHANGING THE PATTERN and that cutting down on caffeine is the way. So I got my food back in order (again!) and started cutting down on the caffeine.  From 6 large mugs a day, I'm now down to 2-3 - and I have been making it gradually weaker, as well.   I'm from the U.K. so am happy to drink instant coffee - so that has less caffeine in it than Starbucks coffee etc. When I go to a coffee house (which I do with my daughter - I can't not go!), I ask for steamed  milk and slip in my own brew of weaker instant coffee at the table! I'm happy to say that on most days, I'm only having 60 to 90 mgs of caffeine compared to 500-600, although if I get really stressed, it's up to 120.  But I think the point is, I'm making progress and won't give up as I now feel like I do have a way of actually getting off caffeine.   I've also been adding some 'No Caf' to my coffee, which is caffeine free and made from barley, figs etc. I'm hoping that I'll be able to make the transition from coffee to all 'No Caf', eventually, and that then, hopefully, I won't need it, at all.  I wanted to ask, please, if anyone has any advice about when I make that final leap and stop caffeine, completely?  Part of me is still scared to make that leap and feel I  might try to hang on to the weaning process. I'd be very grateful for any tips or shared experience.  Thanks and I hope everyone I knew from last year is still doing well. :)  Rob, I was so pleased to read you'd done it - brilliant news!  And John C - amazing to see you still on here, trying to help people!  :)  Jackie

Hi Jackie

Yes, I took the wean path myself.  Over a five month period, I went from about 800-1000 mg/day to 0 mg/day.  Well, that's partly true.  I now drink decaf only, which I know does have some caffeine in it.  I am now 50 days 'clean' and feel much better.  Although I do have some PAWS now and again, but they're getting milder and milder each time.  I can honestly say it was worth it for me. I also know many folks hate the taste of decaf, so it may not be a viable option for all. 
Weaning seemed to help with the physical withdrawals, but the anxiety just lingered on through the process.  If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have taken a year to complete the weaning process (as opposed to five months).  Again, that's just me.  Coffee has never been part of my social life, so I think that made it a bit easier for me to give it up.  My real passion is beer ;) , which I'll probably never give up.  LOL
Best of luck to you.  I know it's not an easy thing to do.  The rewards are greater than the pain you're going through.  I know it's easier said than done, but it's the truth.  Keep us posted on your progress. 
Marc

Thanks, Marc

Thanks for your quick reply, Marc, I do appreciate it. :)  First, big congrats on your success - that sure was a lot of caffeine you were having! - and it does makes sense to come off it slowly. Your story really does give me hope that it's possible to wean , even if it takes a while. I think I always felt that I OUGHT to go cold turkey, even when I knew I couldn't.  A couple of things you said struck a chord. First, you said - "that's just me" - and having read lots of the stories on here, everyone seems to have to find their own way and it's clear to me now that I need to find my own way, too - whatever it takes. Also, you said that coffee wasn't a part of your social life - but that's how I began drinking coffee again about 6 years ago (after not drinking it or being addicted to it for a long, long time. I swear it was the higher strength Starbucks, Costa coffees etc that created my addiction.). It still is part of  my social life but I do now believe I can eventually go to a coffee house and NOT drink coffee! Hope that makes sense. Anyway, enjoy your beer (you must be from the U.K., too, LOL), good luck and thanks again. :) Jackie

Hey Jackie

Jackie
Good to hear from you and good to see you’re still trying to quit – I’m coming up for 6 months in early February and feel so much better for it. If I could only deal with the sugar I’d be laughing :-) Sounds like you’ve got that one sorted, which is great. It’s next on my hit-list.
The amount of coffee you drank was about the same as mine. I couldn’t stand instant coffee (unless desperate) so would drink around half a dozen black filter coffees a day from Pret a Manger (I’m in the UK too), Starbucks etc. I know what you mean about the zombie feeling – I felt awful without it and almost worse with it. Whatever happened I had to have it and I always felt bad !
I tried weaning a number of times – by trying to drink less or weaker drinks (tea rather than coffee, fewer coffees and so on) or by using caffeine pills (Pro Plus) as a substitute (a bit like the patches for smokers). I’d figure out how much caffeine I was using, take about the same in pills, spaced out over the day, then reduce by 50mg (one pill) a day. From the research I did this seemed to be the recommended amount to reduce by, but could do quicker/slower I guess, whatever works for you.
I found weaning didn’t work for me though. It may be just the way my mind works, but as soon as I had any caffeine, I’d think “what the hell” and start drinking coffee like normal again, promising to start again tomorrow. This pattern went on for literally years and became very wearing – I was mentally exhausted, demoralised and frustrated. It’s only a cup of coffee for god’s sake, how can it be so hard !?
I finally quit cold turkey. I was going on holiday to the south of France for 10 days, where it was hot and I knew there would be no real demands on me. I remember swallowing a double espresso at 6 in the morning as I stood in the queue to board the plane and that was it. It wasn’t pleasant, but I managed to get through it. I’d say there’s a big “hump” you have to get through for the first 3-5 days, then a long “tail” where you feel a lot better, but not 100%. I think I’m probably still in the final stages of it now, about 95% better.
The secret for me was acceptance – that I couldn’t use caffeine safely, it didn’t benefit me at all. I wasn’t losing or giving anything up, other than a problem. Most important was accepting that I would feel bad for a few days so it didn’t come as a surprise. In fact I’d done it before so knew what to expect. It is only a few days, not forever. Hanging on to this thought is really important as in the middle of withdrawal you can lose context and sight of the bigger picture.  
It was tough – headaches, back aches, muscle aches, feeling sluggish and bleary, tired, grouchy etc. But if you time it right (like on holiday) it makes it a lot easier to cope and the heat in France helped a lot – both physically and in terms of habit – I wanted to drink coffee less than when it’s cold.
The benefits are clear and I really don’t see myself going back to coffee/caffeine. I still get the odd craving but it passes quickly. In the past I’ve slipped and gone back, I know what misery would result (as you describe). I am mentally clearer, more energetic, more productive, sleep far better (the dreams are amazing !) and much much calmer and more pleasant to know. I save a fortune not going to Starbucks and other coffee shops. I really do recommend it.
So probably not much help with weaning advice, other than it didn’t work for me. Someone said the way you take off a plaster (band-aid) shows you the best way for you – if you pull it off quickly in one go then you’re a cold turkey type person, if you ease it off bit by bit then wean. Neither is better than the other, they both achieve the same end result (provided you go through with it) so it’s down to you and how you like to operate.
Rob. 

Thanks, Rob :)

Hi, Rob, thanks a lot for your quick reply. Much appreciated,  It's great to hear that you've now been caffeine -free for 6 months - that really is a massive breakthrough - you must be so pleased.  Big congrats! I really hope you can get off the sugar, too. As with coffee, I found it was all about changing the patterns.  Here's a tip - although it will only work if you like bananas lol. Whenever I was craving something sweet, I'd have a ripe banana (or two) I LOVE bananas, anyway, but it really did help and now it's like I automatically want bananas, instead of cake/pie. I also add a sliced banana to my (bland) breakfast  and it totally transform it. Doing something repeatedly changes the pattern and your expectations, I guess. If you don't like bananas, maybe there's something else (healthy)you could substitute. I also tried to make my main meal tasty, using spices, curry powder, chilli, garlic etc. It seems to pacify the cravings. To help me sleep before bed, I have oats soaked in soya milk with (you guessed!) a sliced banana. Both oats and bananas are soporific, though, and they do help me to sleep. BTW, it changed to bold below and I can't seem to change it. Sorry.Anyway, back to the coffee. Your reply gave me much to think about and made me realise what's important for me and how I can do this.  I think you helped me to realise, as I said to Marc, that I have to find my own way and that, if the only way I can do it is to wean, then that's what's right for me. This might seem obvious - but I'd been beating myself up FOR MONTHS about the fact that I couldn't go cold turkey!  In my heart, I really did know that I could  not do it.  But now, I believe I CAN wean myself off - and that belief is what's going to be my saviour. That sounds a bit OTT but that's how it feels. A lot of your reply helped me to understand more about how my mind works - the patterns/my addictive personality etc.  I've been addicted to sugar etc for getting on for 60 years (I'm 62) and that DEEPLY INGRAINED pattern of eating has been a major problem all of my life. I believe that the addictive properties of coffee - both physical AND psychological - are part of that BUT I would like to say that I never had any problems with coffee until I started drinking the higher strength Starbucks, Costa coffees etc. The psychological 'comfort' element of hot, milky, sweet coffee is very strong for me, too. For example, Pro-plus, tea, coffee made with hot water and a dash of milk would just not do it for me. Anyway, what I'm trying to say, is that I think I'm just realising that I need major re-training and that I must see it as a very long term and active process. You can't undo all those years in a couple of weeks. Phew! Well, sorry to ramble but it's really helped me to sort things out a little and see the reality of my situation.  Once again, thanks so much, Rob - a lot of what you shared really helped and I'm genuinely glad you're doing so well. Btw, where are you? I'm in Leicestershire.  Good luck to you and everyone. Let me know how the sugar detox goes. Jackie

weaning

I got off cold turkey and it wasnt easy . I went through hell with it .I only took off from work 1 day and that was the day right after I pretty much went cold turkey my body went through a big shock needless to say . I slept alot that day . I still slept that night . Feburary will make 4 months I have been caffine free but it can take 6 months to a year before you really stop the withdraw symptoms mine are getting very mild once in a while I have a panic attack but its very mild and I just take deep breaths know if I can cut back on smoking . Im proud of you for what you have done keep it up and good luck its not easy. There are alot of people that are hooked on caffine and its hell realizing and quitting it . I have found that if you dont want to eat breakfast drink a breakfast drink w lots of vitamins its helps alot also drink a glass of orange juice in the morning it helps with the anxiety and helps build ur body back up .  

Thanks, Richard :)

Thanks for your reply, Richard, and congrats on being caffeine free for nearly 4 months - that's a big achievement! Also, thanks for sharing your story and for your encouragement and advice - greatly appreciated. It's a hard road for anyone and any support is very helpful . :) Good luck to you and I really hope you stay the course. :) Jackie

No Doz Dangers

I've never been a coffee drinker. Too bitter and too hot. I've been a Coca Cola drinker all my life. I still am except now I normally drink caffeine free (which is hard to find, unless it's also diet). My addiction is to No Doz. It started in college. I'd take a Vivarin or two while cramming for a test. At this point...no problem. In later years I worked as a bartender in a very, very busy place. Before leaving for work I would sometimes take a No Doz. Still no problem. But then that No Doz started to be everyday. Begin problem. At some point I started taking them in the car on the way to work because I had been in a hurry to leave. Swallowing them, without water was difficult so one day I decided to chew instead. Sure it was a little bitter but it seemed to have a slight mint flavor. Increase problem. Then I started to take "nibbles" off No Doz throughout my shift and later throughout my day. For the last 12 plus years, I have had a No Doz addiction. I now chew over 4 per day. That's about 900 mg. If I don't have No Doz I feel horrible. Taking it is not an option. You call that an addiction. My blood pressure is about 143 over 97. I blame No Doz. I am again going to try to quit, but it is hard to do. My warning is this: if No Doz helps you quit then fine, but it is a bit like an alcoholic trying to stop a beer addiction with shot of vodka. Be careful.

Re No Doz dangers

Hello, it's a long time since you posted and I was wondering how you're doing? It's perhaps too late to offer advice but, for anyone else reading this and having a problem with No Doz, I'd say that caffeine is caffeine, however, you take it and the approach is much the same. You can either go cold turkey or try to wean. 900 mgs of caffeine is a lot of caffeine and, in this situation, I think I'd try to wean myself off, cutting down to three quarters of a tablet X 4 per day for maybe a week or two then half a tablet X 4 per day for a week or two etc etc.  Or try whatever method of cutting down which seems right for you and listen to your body. You'll know when it's adapting to the weaker dosage and you'll begin to feel slightly better. After failing to go cold turkey (coffee) for 9 months, I'm trying weaning and having some success - so it can work!  I'd also say try to keep your diet as healthy as possible and try to eat a good balanced diet of good quality protein, grains, EFAs, vegetables and fruits.  Drink water and try to take some light exercise (a walk is great) and get outside in the fresh air/sun.  Good luck to anyone having problems with ANY form of caffeine! Jackie.

caffeine levels

Another thing to consider is what kind of coffee you are drinking. Vietnam has recently become the worlds second largest coffee producer, and almost all of it is Robusta. The supply of cheap Robusta flooding the market has driven prices down and thus made its use more popular for some companies. (i.e. Folger's is about 33% Robusta)

Robusta beans can contain 2-4x as much caffeine as Arabacia beans. Selecting 100% Arabacia could be a good first step to lowering you caffeine intake.

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