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.


P.A.W.S.: Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Hey Everyone,

Does P.A.W.S. : Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome apply to caffeine addiction also?

Seattle: coffee capitol

I like to drink a single cup of espresso based coffee a day when working. When I am not working I easily can do without. Unfortunatly I have discovered, like clockwork, that I will get a vicious headache accompanied by nausea, three days after stopping. (I don't seem to have the same issues with tea.) I have found that limiting my intake to two cups a week with at least a day between keeps the headaches at bay. Any more than that and I risk the misery that everyone else talks about on this site. IS this a smart tactic? I don't know. It sounds a little like an addict trying to hold on to his addiction with some kind of justification. If I treat the headaches with a triple dose of Advil when they are in their early stages, I can sometimes avoid them. I have also found that if I do about 45 minutes of hard cardio in the early stages I can get rid of the headaches. Dropping everything for 45 minutes of cardio is not a ready solution for me however.

Trying to get a handle on my symptoms....

Hi Everyone!
This past Sunday was the beginning of my fifth week of being caffeine free. I'd like to say I feel terrific, but that is just not the case. My anxiety levels are so high; my legs feel like rubber when I try to walk, and I am so tired and lethargic. The headache seems to have subsided quite a bit, and that is one good thing.
So yesterday, I decided to do an experiment to see if some of these symptoms would calm down if I had a cup of coffee.......it sounded legitimate to me at the time and being a cold, snowy day, a coffee sounded sooooooo gooood!
WHAT A MISTAKE IT WAS......after my cup of Starbuck's Italian Roast, my anxiety skyrocketed and, although I was really pumped up for the entire day, I felt like I had 5 coffees, not just 1.

Oddly enough, I had the coffee at 10 am and slept like a baby at night.

I will not be doing that again, and will continue to put up with these withdrawal symptoms. I pray the anxiety goes away soon, it is very unnerving and a little scary.
I want to be my old self again.
For some of us who are extremely sensitive to caffeine, I think these symptoms will last for a while yet. This just goes to show me that I shouldn't be drinking this substance anymore.
For those of you who are suffering, hang in there, you're not going through this alone.

Caffeine Rejection

Hi Patrice,

I wrote in another post that I accidentally drank half a bottle of vitamin that had caffeine in it. I must have drank only about 25 mgs. I felt sick after I drank it. I wish I had the reverse affect like you did with good sleep when you relapsed. I couldn't sleep at all. My mind raced all night and I had to resort to taking the sleeping pill again which I was off for a week. I hope that this doesn't start the withdrawals all over from the beginning. I will make sure from now on to read the labels of everything I eat or drink to make sure there isn't any caffeine in it. My insomnia has been really bad. I have muscle twitches which makes it hard to fall asleep. I hope things get better soon. I don't know how much more I can take of this.


Hi Patrice

I am the one who wrote "One Month Later." The hardest withdrawal symptom I have is insomnia. I have been taking a sleeping pill to help me sleep but I only take it every other day. I only get about 3-4 hours of sleep per night. Sometimes I wonder which is the lesser of two evils, quitting caffeine or having to deal with weeks of withdrawal symptoms and having to take prescription medications to help relieve the withdrawal symptoms. As far as my digestive system, sometimes I have constipation or diarrhea. My stomach rumbles once in a while which can be annoying. I am trying my best to take things one day at a time but its very hard. I quit the day treatment program I was in because the people in there are dealing with more hardcore drugs and I felt very uncomfortable. I think once I establish a normal sleep pattern again, I will be more happy. I can sympathize with what you are going through. I did have one relapse about 3 weeks ago. I drank a 20 oz of brewed iced tea. After drinking it, it made me feel sick. So, no more to that. Please keep posting updates and keep in touch. Reading your updates has helped me a lot.

Kikaida :)

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!!

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!

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