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

It's been rough!

Hi Kikaida! I too quit caffeine cold turkey about three months ago. I was drinking 600-700 mg per day and began to feel intense anxiety. To end the anxiety I decided to end my caffeine consumption. Unbeknownst to me at the time, anxiety and depression are two symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, both of which I've felt for the past few months. Although they aren't gone, I can definitely feel a difference between how I feel now and how I felt when i first quit. The reason I'm writing you is because I noticed we've had similar withdrawal symptoms and was wondering how your's are doing and also what the doctor has said to you about how long caffeine withdrawal usually lasts. Hang in there!

re: It's been rough!

Hi there,

My neurologist told me that caffeine withdrawals should only last up to 9 days. I disagree big time! He prescribed me a medication that is used to treat restless leg syndrome and Parkinson's Disease. My regular doctor told me not to take it. He said that the muscle twitching is normal and when we are going through caffeine withdrawals it's more pronounced. He also said that even though the caffeine may be already out of our system, it doesn't mean that the damage that was done from caffeine is completely gone. For example, I have really bad constipation. The doctor told me that because of caffeine abuse, the colon slows down. He said it could take months before the colon functions normally without the caffeine. The caffeine acts as a laxative which is not healthy for us. I am still dealing with insomnia and I am using a benzodiazepine sleep medication that is helping me deal with the anxiety as well as sleep problem. I am concerned taking this medication because it can be addictive. I already gave up the caffeine addiction, and I don't need to add another addiction to my plate. I am going back to see my doctor next week to discuss with him about the pros and cons of using this sleep med. The one thing I can say about caffeine withdrawals is that it can take months before our body gets back to normal. Having to deal with taking medications to counteract the caffeine withdrawal symptoms can be a real pain.

My own insomnia

Hi Kikaida!
I do feel your pain about insomnia. Never had trouble sleeping before I gave up caffeine 3 weeks ago, but now I wake up after only 3 hours of sleep and am restless from then on. Hope this phase passes soon!

Also, my acid reflux seems to have gotten worse since withdrawal began......which seems the opposite of what I thought would happen.

This entire situation is so terrible, I wish I'd never started drinking coffee in the first place. But I did, and I'm here now, so the best anyone can do is take it one day at a time.

I'm trying to eat healthy and not have any sugar during this time.......maybe that will help you.
Good luck and know that you are not alone in this quest to kick the habit.
Patrice

Beginning of Week 3....

Hi Everyone!
Hope your holiday weekend was joyful!
This is the beginning of my 3rd week of being caffeine free. I'm actually proud of myself, that through the holiday I only had one tiny slip.......had three sips of coffee on Xmas day.

My headache is still there, but much more tolerable, and the painful cramps in my legs are subsiding. However, I still feel so very tired and lethargic and just feel sick. The dizziness is also still there, and I'm feeling anxious.

One bright spot is that, maybe because I feel so sick, I have no desire to grab my keys and run up to the local Starbuck's for a cup of my poison of choice.

I am very determined to get through this, and never go back. One of the ways that might be helpful in staying on course, is to write everyday in a journal. Perhaps when I feel tempted in the future to have a cup, I can look back and read how horrible was this withdrawal. Maybe that will stop me from sliding down that slope again.

Perhaps caffeine addiction is like any other, once you start to feel better, you forget about all of the damaging effects of the addiction. I never want to go through this again. I won't lie to anyone who is just starting out.....this is horrible.
Here's to a New Year of being caffeine free and healthy!!
Patrice

re: Beginning of Week 3...

Hi Patrice,

You and I are kind of in the same boat. The caffeine withdrawals has gotten so bad that I have to see my doctor a lot, psychologist and also a substance abuse counselor. Even with all this in place, I still have a hard time coping with the withdrawals or after affects of caffeine. Now I can sympathize what drug addicts have to go through with withdrawals. In 2007, I did quit caffeine for 5 months but I couldn't deal with the withdrawal symptoms and went back onto caffeine. For 3 years I was all good but now I am back to where I started. I pray and hope that the insomnia, and digestive problems go away. I am scared and do hope that the withdrawals doesn't last as long as it did in 2007. I wouldn't know what to do.

dizzy lethargic feeling

How long does the dull tightness on back of head, tired, dizzy, lethargic brain fog last I am on like day 19 i dont have headaches or feel real tired I just dont feel 100% I get pressure and a general sense of lethargicness at times.

Help?

I'm 15 and I've been drinking coke for a while. Two to three cans a day, and they're small cans. But I got sick and I knew I shouldn't be drinking coke while being sick, so I started to drink orange juice and water.. Well, for a few nights now, I've been feeling like I can't breathe and my heart races and I can't sleep. I went to the doctor and he said everything was fine with me.. So, could I be feeling this way simply because I haven't been drinking coke?

Caffeine withdrawal day 6.

I have been off all caffeine for 6 days now. After a few days of slight headache, I thought that was it, now I am going through other symptoms. Aches and pains and restlessness but I am determined not to give up as I've come this far. I just want everyone to know that milk has been of great help to me. Plain old full cream milk just heated in the microwave and sipped slowly has given me some relief from the symptoms. I have also taken 2 paracetamol when things get really bad. I hope this is of some help to fellow sufferers. Best wishes for Christmas from the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

Tanya, don't give up.

Tanya, don't give up. Feeling like a completely new person is around the corner. Took me 2 weeks. It is amazing how much better you will feel. I'm starting caffeine free again. Was doing great for 4 months than just had one Mt. Dew and fell into the habit again. :( One Mt Dew is great for a little pick me up to do my chores, than I need more and more to get the same lift and to not feel run down. THAN 1 month later I am chugging the stuff to not go through withdrawels and get headaches!!!!!!!! A great book to read is "Caffeine Blues" It goes into detail of the effects of caffeine on your mind and body. I'm here cheering you on!!
Kim

Long term problems after quitting 12 cup habit

Hi,
I wanted to know if anybody else feels like they've had long term withdrawal problems. Over about 10 years I went from very little caffeine to needing about 4 cups, or a full dark french press worth in the morning just to avoid a headache. Another at lunch. If I needed to feel up, I'd have several more equivalent shots. I had to quit because I could not sleep if I had any after lunch and if I did that then I'd be a complete bear in the evenings around my family and wake up with a headache in the morning (early withdrawal). My vision would also get blurry if I got stressed out and i got generally sensitive to lights and sound. I finally succeeded in quiting about 3 years ago, after going through terrible acute withdrawal. I get massive migraines (which as a guy, I'd never had before) between days 3-5 of cold turkey. I can get through that because I know it goes away after that. My problem was that I'd feel dumb and slow and had no motivation to do anything. I now know this as mild depression, which I was OK with as long as I could just mope around the house. But I felt that my family needed me to get stuff stuff done, or my wife would complain about low sex drive, and I'd fall off the wagon. To get off completely, I had to quit work and lay low. I'd use what little energy I had to get basic housework done. The depression has lifted verrrrrrry slowly, but worse, I seem to have worse sleep problems than before (I used to lay awake and think too much but now I've developed sleep apnea instead). Also, my nose is dry and swells shut at night, which did not happen when I was obeying my addiction. The apnea literature says that caffeine can help, so I'm trying to figure out what affect coming off of a big addiction has had on the tissues around my throat and nose. If I have a little caffeine, it seems to help a little. But i dont want to have a bunch to see if it clears up completely. In the meantime, I've been trying to take up chamomile, meditation and yoga, but I was raised red neck and its been really hard to get all hippy like this.
Advice welcome,
Ed

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