What are the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal?

Regular caffeine consumption reduces sensitivity to caffeine. When caffeine intake is reduced, the body becomes oversensitive to adenosine. In response to this oversensitiveness, blood pressure drops dramatically, causing an excess of blood in the head (though not necessarily on the brain), leading to a headache.

This headache, well known among coffee drinkers, usually lasts from one to five days, and can be alleviated with analgesics such as aspirin. It is also alleviated with caffeine intake (in fact several analgesics contain caffeine dosages).

Often, people who are reducing caffeine intake report being irritable, unable to work, nervous, restless, and feeling sleepy, as well as having a headache. In extreme cases, nausea and vomiting has also been reported.


Caffeine and Health. J. E. James, Academic Press, 1991. Progress in Clinical and Biological Research Volume 158. G. A. Spiller, Ed. Alan R. Liss Inc, 1984.


To Jaki

Hi, Jaki.  Let me first say 'thank you' for your encouraging words.  I'm still far from being certain that I can go through a rigorous academic schedule without caffeine, but it is always great to hear encouraging stories of people who have.  I think it's awesome that you returned to school at 40 and were able to do well without caffeine, sugar, etc. 
And believe me that although I'm not off of caffeine right now, there is certainly a heavy 'payback' for me every time that I cease consumption.  Headaches, anxiety, no motivation to do anything productive, etc..... I get all the classic symptoms, and more.  I definitely understand the symptoms you are going through, and wish you nothing but the best of luck in your withdrawal. 
The date for my stoppage is May 4.  It might seem kind of silly to mark the date on the calendar like that months in the future, but I feel very strongly about quitting and staying off caffeine forever.  I will continue to read the board in the meantime.
I'm going to put my email in this paragraph in case you, Denise, or anyone else wants to keep up with me that way.  I don't post on here as much because I feel bad for making all these posts and taking up all of the pages here.  I also can't spell my email address out all at once, or the spam bots will get ahold of it.  My email address is m_marshall84.  The second part after that is @hotmail.com.  Anyone can feel free to email me and send me their address also.  It would definitely be nice to have some support of people who have done it before when I finally go through this.

Dave MM

Forgive me - I rambled away from your original question in my first post.  You say you are afraid of what your life is going to be like without caffeine.  It's not a stupid question.  If you've used caffeine all of your life, it's a fair concern to wonder how you will function without it.
Can you remember ... but was there a time in your childhood or early in your teens when you weren't ingesting caffeine every day?  I'm not asking this as a joke.  Unfortunately, there ARE children who are already hooked on sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, etc.  But try to think back.  Hopefully you can remember when you used to bound out of bed, eager to start your day with energy that lasted all the way to bedtime, when you would fall deeply asleep and stay asleep?
When I've been completely caffeine-free in my past, I used to freak myself by reading studies about how good caffeine is for you - antioxidants, brain stimulation, less risk of certain diseases (like Alzheimers for instance), etc.  But then I look at myself and realize that, as you say, caffeine was always my crutch.  Do I REALLY want a life that is only livable when I plug in that coffeemaker every  morning?  Am I honestly happier?  Do one or two cups a day count less (in negative terms) than five or six?  Or is it just that I am addicted to a substance again and making excuses?  Going caffeine-free is going to take some major emotional strength.

Dave MM

Hi Dave - I don't know if you remember me, but I am the "Denise" who used to respond to your earlier posts some 2 to 3 years ago when we were both (yet again) fighting our caffeine addictions.  The longest I was able to go without any caffeine (including chocolate) was approximately 8 months.  Your point about the addictive personality is very valid.  I also CANNOT pretend that I'll have just one cup every once in a while.  I am probably much more like an alcoholic or a drug addict, personality-wise.  It's all or nothing.  I'm either "on the wagon" or horribly, out-of-control off.  I remember you saying that the caffeine helped you through your school studies and when I read your post this morning, I have to admit - it made me sad.  Because I can honestly, from the bottom of my heart - feel your pain.  It is such a scary thought - to think that I will never again down a hot cup of coffee with my friends and family.  And I have to tell you ... even after 8 months without it I have fallen down again.
But we have to look closely at what this means - caffeine is ADDICTION, pure and simple.  I don't find myself obsessing over broccoli or salmon or even donuts!  No, the evil monkey on my back is caffeine.  I want the buzz, the smell of it, the ritual of brewing it.  But enough!  I am through with it forever.  I'm only in the baby steps stage of withdrawal, but something inside of me has finally snapped.  My disgust with myself outweighs the nagging little whiny voice that says "Why me?  Why can't I be like everyone else?"
Before this gets too horribly long, I just want to share with you that one of my life's idols - Jack LaLanne - lived his long, long life by working out daily and never touching caffeine.  Two of his favorite sayings were "Would you get up and feed your dog caffeine and a donut?" and "If man made it, don't eat it!".  Dave, at 28, you are a baby.  Jaki, at 61, you are still a baby (Mr. LaLanne lived to almost 100!)  I am 49 and I am proud to say that my addiction is OVER!
Good luck Dave, Jaki, John and everyone else out there who are trying to be healthier.  You have my support and love, guys!

To Denise

Hi Denise, I remember you, and that's why I specifically made reference to you in my previous post.  I appreciate your comments.  They were insightful, as usual.  Ultimately, I suppose that you are right.  I have little doubt that I will be a better and happier person without caffeine, as will you or practically anyone else who stops using it.  And I do think I remember a time many years ago when I was happy without it.  In the end, I do believe that we need to break the addiction and live calmer lives.  But it still worries me that I won't be able to fulfill my dreams (or even be a responsible person) without my caffeine crutch  Perhaps one day I can come to peace with that.  Hell, maybe we all can.  Jack LaLanne did pretty well himself after all.  Keep up the good fight, and keep us all updated.  I believe people can draw a lot of strength from reading some of the struggles and success stories that are posted here.

Hello Jaki, John and Everyone

Thanks again for your encouraging words.  I didn't know what Costa is, but I Googled it and found yet another caffeine kingdom out there.  Doesn't it feel like the whole world is ramped up on caffeine, especially when you're trying to give it up?  I can honestly state that I'm finally through with it for good.  I know that everyone's withdrawals are different, but the worst part for me are the nightmares.  The headaches are bad, but I can live through them.  Feeling exhausted is no fun either, but for me - the nightmares that I experience when I haven't had caffeine in days are enough to make me dread going to (an already fitful) sleep.  But I'm persevering.  Another week or two of crazy and scary dreams and then I'll be over the worst of it.  I think that the nightmares may be related to my central nervous system/brain trying to get back to a state of natural consciousness - not one artificially stimulated by the caffeine drug.  Jaki - I'd like to get to know you better, too - but I don't want to be a board hog.  Maybe we could ask Daniel to help us get in touch via email?  Anyway, thank you again for encouraging me and for sharing your experiences.  Stay strong!

Hi Denise

How are you doing? First, I was inspired by your replies to Dave and found them so helpful - thanks, Denise. I wish I had your clarity and insight :) Yes, the world IS ramped up on caffeine and in Costa, last week, they doubled some of their shots - they want us to become even more addicted! But they don't tell us - unless asked, of course.  I felt for you about the nightmares - that must be horrible but I totally agree with how you view them. I sometimes feel I'm like a 'witness' to my own psyche and can experience it trying to balance out all the different energies (if that makes sense).   It's a bit like being in the middle of a storm sometimes! I really hope they ease off soon. I don't know it it's of any help re headaches but I've never had any. I know everyone says drink a lot of water. I've done that for many years whether I'm on the coffee or not and ALWAYS drink a tumbler of water after drinking coffee. Thought it was worth a mention, just in case it helps. Denise, I was wondering if you're on facebook (if I dare to admit I'm on it!)? It might be possible to contact eachother that way, if you're comfortable with it? Again, I've never posted on any forum before so I'm not sure about etiquette. Well, best of luck and please keep us posted. Best wishes.


How are you?  Your comment about your psyche makes sense to me.  It truly is like being in the middle of a storm with energies/thoughts pulling you in different directions.  And thank you for your suggestion about water - I am definitely trying to drink more of it.  As I mentioned before, I am not on FB, not that I have anything against it, just haven't gotten around to it.  As of today, I am past the headache stage of withdrawal, but had one doozy of a nightmare last night.  At least it was only one ... the first week I was having bad dreams all night and waking up exhausted.  I hope you are managing everything better now and finding balance either with or without caffeine.

Jaki the 11th commandment is

Jaki the 11th commandment is 'avoid temptation!' I think we have apeman desire legacies in us that are very strong - stronger than us. But they are short-term and unstrategic; we can manage ahead of them, outwit them.
I really would advise you to drive a few miles more to a different food store that means you don't see a Costa. Just manage ahead to prevent that known temptation moment occurring.
Very best

Thanks John

Sorry for the late reply. Yes! The last few days or so have shown me that in all its glory! I definitely experience that "stronger than us" feeling and sometimes am astounded to find that I'm STILL walking into Costa, fully conscious of what I'm doing, but I'm still doing it. Unfathomable, really. But I'm finding that helping to understand my motives (fear, escape, habit etc) and recognising the triggers/temptation areas (some are not always obvious and, for me, are sometimes linked to stress/food) are starting to help me to conquer this. I'm interested in the idea of having created deep and abiding patterns of behaviour which are too strong in me to challenge outright. I think (I hope) I'm starting to create NEW patterns which will eventually lead to a completely free caffeine free/healthy eating life. I wondered what you thought about this idea, please? I hope I'm not fooling myself and simply procrastinating. I really wish I could just do it -just go cold turkey and be done with it! That's what I'm feeling now! I so admire your resolve - it's a great inspiration and I will look up the other sites you mentioned in your reply to Dave. Thanks very much and I will definitely take your advice. All the best.

Thank You

I woke up this morning and felt like I'd got myself back a little!! And so I wanted to say a massive thank you to Daniel for starting this forum as it gave me the inspriration to try - and fail - but TRY AGAIN! I feel like I CAN now take control and say NO to this drug which has robbed me of my self and my soul (or so it feels). And if I fail again, I won't give up like I've done so often in the past. I will KEEP TRYING! Thanks to Denise and John for replying to my original post and making me feel part of the community and big thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences and imparting so much useful information/books/sites. For example, it may seem naive but I thought that coffee gave me energy but I learned that it just uses up your resources faster and then you hit that terrible lethargy and exhaustion.I am back on my organic, natural food detox diet/lots of water (I've put on 20lbs) and it's already starting to pay off as I woke this morning and felt slightly better, more energetic and ALIVE! I know there's a long way to go - later, the exhaustion and feeling ill will return - but I found that keeping busy helped and once I get past that time when the 'coffee tapes' play around mid-afternoon, I'm free from temptation.  Ahh, temptation....so hard. I'm going out food shopping this morning and will have to pass Costa. NO!! Just wanted to post while I'm feeling like this....sorry to be flooding the site but it's really helping me. Hope that's OK? Well, it's cloudy here in the U.K. this morning but Spring is on its way and the better weather should help us all.  Good luck to everyone and I hope more people will post with their stories:) P.S. Denise - will reply to you separately later and thanks again :)

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.