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.

References.

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.

Comments

Thanks for your comments

Hi Kikaida!
I can empathize with you about the insomnia. I've been having sleep issues since I gave up caffeine, which is kind of funny, because you would think without the caffeine the body would sleep. The insomnia and the anxiety go hand in hand with this withdrawal, along with overwhelming fatigue at times.
Then only thing to do it wait it out, I guess.
I'm trying to eat healthy and take extra B vitamins which help the nervous system. I hesitate to take any kind of drug for myself, but I understand if you feel you have to in order to get over this.
One of the reasons I wanted to give up caffeine, is I've been suffering from some health issues and was hoping that eliminating caffeine would help. It took a long time for these health issues to sneak up on me, so I know it will take a while to be healthy again.
However, this step of giving up the caffeine drug is the best we can do for our bodies, so don't become discouraged. I'm in it for the long haul.....hope you stay on it with me!!
Patrice

One Month Later

I have been off caffeine for one month. I am still experiencing withdrawals from long term caffeine abuse. The main problems I am experiencing are anxiety and insomnia. I am taking a benzodiazepine type of medication which is in the same family of drugs like valium which was prescribed by my primary care physician. He prescribed it for my insomnia but it also helps with the anxiety. This drug is highly addictive if taken for a long period of time. But at this point in my life, with having to deal with the bad insomnia and anxiety, I have no choice but to take this medication in order for me to function daily. If I don't take it as prescribed, I will be depressed and be home bound which I don't want to be. I am also in this day treatment program for substance abuse which has been helping me out tremendously. I am learning coping skills to deal with the caffeine addiction problem as well as anxiety. It is a three month program that I go to 3xs a week for 4 hours. It takes a lot out of me to get myself out of the house to attend these classes even though at times I feel sickly. I know these acute caffeine withdrawals will last for several months because I did attempt to quit caffeine a few years ago which lasted me 5 months which eventually ended with me going back on caffeine again. It's a real struggle especially when one experiences so much health issues as a result of years of caffeine abuse. What stresses me out the most is uncertainty of not knowing how long the healing process of quitting caffeine will take. I guess all we can do is hope for the best and take it one day at a time.

10 days and counting

For half of my life I never liked coffee or tea. But the advent of sweet frothy espresso drinks got me interested. I knew I was sensitive to caffeine in terms of it keeping me up at night, so I avoided it in the evenings. But I didn't know it was connected with headaches. I'd have a drink once in a while. And once in a while, I'd get unexplainable headaches.

Once I started working in an office, I'd drink 1 cup or so during weekdays. But not on the weekends. Then I'd get a bad headache by Saturday after lunch and just suffer through it. I thought I was justing getting old and not getting enough sleep. Then sundays I'd need to take a long nap all afternoon. I'd feel so guilty for being lethargic and slothful.

Later I became dependent on coffee. For the last 5 years, I had to religiously drink 1 or 2 cups before noon, otherwise I'd suffer headaches starting in the afternoon and all through the night (sometimes bothering my sleep & rudely waking me with its very presence the next morning). This kind of headache would be intense in pressure in some local area (temple, side of head, down the neck, anywhere) and not relent with acupressure massage, ibuprofen, etc.

I've also been a night owl most of my life, and I could never get myself to wake up early in the morning (I always felt like a "slacker mom"). I told myself if I could just go to bed earlier, then I could rise earlier and be a better parent! But little did I know that the 1 or 2 coffees was regulating my sleep; that is, it was preventing me from feeling tired earlier, which made me stay up late, which made me wake up late, which made me feel run down the next day...

Long story short - I involuntarily stopped caffeine last week. One day I felt headachey late in the morning (got too busy to drink my 1 cup of coffee), then I got feverish and muscle-achey by the afternoon. I barely drove home, went straight into bed, and slept (terribly) for 18 hours with about 100F fever. I thought it was either the flu or a stomach bug. But it didn't turn out to be either. In the later part of the 18 hours, my head was pounding all over, but especialy in the back. My dreams were repetitive and weird. I woke up, ate something and slept another 5 hours. Ate dinner and slept again. By this time I had diarrhea but it went away after 24 hours, along with the headache, fever, and body aches. I got very thirsty and drank lots of water with a tiny amount of tea added.

It's been 10 days since stopping caffeine (excluing a few bits of chocolate). There was an additional day of headache that was resolved with another long nap. Also, some lower back ache - but it could be attributed to my sciatic nerve issue that started 1/2 a year ago.

What I'm happy to report is the great sleep! I've been waking up naturally before my alarm goes off. I used to be a terrible slave to the snooze button, hitting it every 5 minutes for up to an hour!

Also, no craving for coffee. Hopefully there won't be anymore of those drilling, squeezing, and pounding-in-my-sleep headaches. Even though it was just 1 cup, I could do without the sugar and non-dairy creamer (lactose-intolerant). I'll have to be careful around colas and intense dark chocolates!

I hope this is helpful for anyone out there. I'm just happy to be free. I really appreciate everybody's contribution to this blog. (And thanks to the moderator for allowing this on a pro-Coffee site!)

Now it's been 1 month since I

Now it's been 1 month since I stopped caffeine.

I think the suffering was terrible for only a portion of the 1st week. I had a few minor headaches in the 2nd week. After that nothing else felt bad. I used to have a jittery heart that pounded when I tried to sleep, but now that is mostly gone. I feel good waking up.

I've had to turn down lovely mochas and cappucinos now and then. That's the ONLY downside!

Who knew the road would be so long?

Like all of you, I am fighting in the war against caffeine. I started drinking coffee and energy drinks regularly in college. At my prime, I was consuming 600-700 mg of caffeine per day no matter what. As my body continued to build up its tolerance, I continued to ingest more and more caffeine. I didn't really think about it until I began to feel anxious. This anxiety was tolerable at first and only came on in the hours following my caffeine consumption. Pretty soon it became more intense and would come on at random times. This was an odd thing for me, as I had never felt anything like it before in my life. Then out of the blue, this past September, I had what I believe to be a panic attack (again, not sure. i've never had one prior). This experience scared the hell out of me and led me to decide to become caffeine free.

Instead of weaning myself off slowly, I decided to just quit all together. This has proven to be a bad decision, as the withdrawal symptoms have been quite intense. At the time, I didn't know any better. I did no research, but instead just decided to stop immediately. The worst symptoms by far have been anxiety and depression. I lost interest in regularly exciting activities and didn't really want to interact with anybody. I truly have felt at times over the past few months that I've gone crazy. Aside from the ups and downs of these two symptoms, I experience extreme fatigue and body aches for the first month or so, but nothing other than that. It has now been just under four months. The bouts of anxiety and depression are much better than before but are definitely still with me. In time, I would hope that they completely subside so that I can fully enjoy the benefits of a caffeine free life.

My question to the world: Have any of you out there had a similar experience with these symptoms and/ or the amount of time they lasted? When will they be totally gone?!

Say no to Joe!

@Say no to Joe I've always

@Say no to Joe

I've always been fond of caffeine drinks. I would frequently buy energy drinks and other random drinks with caffeine in them, though not to an extreme amount. About 5 months ago, I started working at a coffee shop -- free drinks while working. I can't say exact amounts but I was having a couple caffeinated drinks each day I worked, even putting a few espresso shots in smoothies and such.

A couple of months ago I was doing some reading and drank 3 cups of coffee pretty quickly. I decided against a fourth for whatever reason. A short while after finishing the 3rd, I felt something coming up (that's how I'll describe it, I just knew something was about to "come up"). I had a damn terrible anxiety/panic attack, and even felt a couple heart palpitations. Anyone experienced with them knows the initial burst of anxiety itself can quickly lead to more anxiety. So I was pacing around my place, trying to distract myself and calm myself down. I felt as though I would lose control and/or go crazy at any moment. Thoughts of the hospital raced through my head, and I was a second away from knocking on my roommate's door like a lunatic, just to have someone to talk to and distract me from my racing perilous thoughts.

The only other time I can remember having these sort of attacks was a short period about 6 years ago, for unknown reasons. I mention this because I feel like this experience made me "remember" these attacks - how I can trigger them, what they feel like, and such. Anyway, since that night, I've quit caffeine cold turkey.... and of course, I've had issues. I've been susceptible to anxiety and panic since then, though never at the severity of that experience, although one was particularly bad. I'm just going to keep trucking, and hope it eventually fades and I again forget the feeling; I have no interest in trying to medicate for the anxiety. Good luck to anyone who's experienced something similar.

i too am haveing panic

i too am haveing panic attacks from the caffine withdraw sometimes i dont think my poor heart can take all the raceing it is doing!! i have had them before for different reasons,, nice to see that someone else is going threw this mine usally hits me at night,, i had to give uup caffine due to acid reflux it sucks not gonna lie had to quit smokeing at the same time!! trying my best so hang in there i am trying also

Hi, Say No To Joe! is going

Hi,

Say No To Joe! is going to be my new mantra ... thank you! :)

Previous to this new withdrawal I am currently in (today is Day 3), I was able to stay clean for four months and I can attest that even then, it was not clear sailing. It's interesting that you mention not wanting to interact with anyone and at times feeling like you've gone crazy. I had the same reaction, especially at the beginning of Month 3. I was almost too tired to want to take a shower, put on makeup, get dressed. I don't know I was actually tired or if this was depression, but it sucked. I gave in to coffee again in the fourth month, but honestly, CAFFEINE IS NOT THE ANSWER! The first few cups are like a gift from Heaven, but pretty soon you are once again addicted and tired of the whole rollercoaster.

All I can tell you is that this time, I am giving my poor, abused body one full year. I honestly don't think a few months is enough time to heal from caffeine abuse. If by January 6, 2012 I haven't completely turned around the health issues I have and if being caffeine-free hasn't made a huge difference, then I'll go back to drinking coffee.

I wish you all the luck in the world. Stay strong, friend!

Dave MM and Lessons Learned

Hi Everyone,

I read each and every post on this board and wish I could respond to all of them, but I'm sure that's not what administrator Daniel has in mind, and I'm no Ann Landers for sure! I do know that I've gotten tremendous comfort and support here while going through caffeine withdrawal and I hope others do as well.

Dave MM - you have been a particularly helpful e-buddy and I hope that you are successful in both your medical school pursuits as well as once and for all finally getting off of caffeine. Keep us posted on your success. :-)

Today is Day 2 for me. I would love to say with 100% certainty that I'll never succumb again, but I've learned my lesson - caffeine is A DRUG. A serious, body and mind altering drug. If anyone ever doubts our claims, tell them to just try to live without it for a few days. Like any recovering addict, I can see this is going to be a one-day-at-a-time thing.

Best of luck to everyone.
Denise

I have been a heavy coffee

I have been a heavy coffee drinker since I was in school even though I am quite sensitive to caffeine. I stopped taking caffeine last Thursday. Usual withdrawal symptoms set in after 48 hours. I had headaches but no migranes, flu like symptoms and was extremely irritable. The flu symptoms went away with simple pain killers (aspirin, paracetamol etc). Caffein withdrawl symptoms are a distruction but do not affect your ability to do mental or physical tasks. So going on with my everyday business to keep my mind away from the symptoms was really helpfull. Also naps after lunchtime really helped make me feel better. I also had difficulty falling to sleep at night the first 2-3 days after the onset of symptoms probably because the brain gets over-exited. By today all the irritating symptoms have gone and I'm feeling great. What you have to do is keep in mind that symptoms usually only last for less than a week so all you need to do is try to keep your mind off the symptoms and you'll be great.

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