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

How to help the leg pain

I'm on day 4 (or 6, depending on how you count - I'll explain in a bit) and into my 3rd day of serious leg pain. I mean screaming, can't-focus-on-anything-else, difficult-to-walk pain. How do you alleviate this symptom?!? I have a desk job so I thought maybe the lack of exercise was making it last longer than "average". So last night I walked for 45 minutes - my legs still woke me up at 4:30 this morning and I think they are worse, if anything. I'm drinking water like a fiend. Never been big into over-the-counter medication so I haven't taken aspirin or alleve or anything.

Something has to help. I've even found myself wondering if I need to go back to the bean just to make it stop. The only thing keeping me on the wagon at this point is I don't know if/how fast that would help. I know all about the headache and exactly how much coffee it takes to make that go away but the leg pain... WIMPER.

My waffling on the days is because I chose to quit cold-turkey in the middle of suffering one of the worst stomach bugs of my life (school age kids - gotta love em). Regular coffee intake on Friday (about 24 oz, regular brew, every morning for the last 6 years), vomitting Friday night, didn't get out of bed or have coffee on Saturday (I certainly had a headache that day but bug or withdrawal, who can say?), tried to "normalize" on Sunday but only managed to choke down a few sips of coffee and that is when it finally occured to my illness-ridden brain that this is my opportunity to quit the bean. So I'm on day 6 if you ignore the Sunday sips or day 4 if you count them.

Pluses of this "detox method" is that I definitely feel like I skated through the headache dept - was suffering anyway and since I so rarely can spend a whole day in bed, I feel like I really managed that well. But the leg thing took me totally by surprise and I am not happy! Make it go away!

Caffeine-induced muscular pain - ibupofen

Persevere! Try a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin (but don't take on an empty stomach as it will irritate the stomach lining). You'll see results and start to feel fine by day8...HONEST!

I went cold turkey; was expecting a headache at the start, but this did not materlialise to the extent I imagined and there was no craving for coffee. Day 2 foggy-headed, depressed and listless and very tearful. Day 3-4 arms and legs like lead weights, irritable, unable to concentrate on anything, a complete 'can't be bothered/cannot muster any energy for work' attitude and intense cramping of thighs, glutteal muscles (buttocks) and lower back - couldn't sit, stand, walk or sleep - AGONY. Pain releaved by popping ibuprofen 2x day. Day 8 and the pain has disappeared, the world is back in glorious technicolour and my senses and memory have been sharpened 1000-fold. So please hang on in there. It will take about 14 days for everything to re-adjust itself; this is the time taken for adenosine receptor downregulation in the brain to take place, in the absense of caffeine, and for the adrenal glands to start producing the correct level of adenosine to circulate in the blood. Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors, meaning that the adrenals have to works extra hard to secete a sufficient amount of adenosine. Once the caffeine disappears, there is too much adenosine circulating in the blood. This affects the blood vessels causing them to constrict and this is what you feel as pain in your muslces. Blood vessels constrict, oxygen cannot be transported to muscles (and lactic acid and carbon dioxide excreted) and you get muscle spams and stiffness and that awful wont-go-away caffeine PAIN. Eventually, things are normalised and the adrenals recover and start to produce the correct level of adenosine and you start to feel normal. Your adrenals are no longer overworked and you have more energy WITHOUT the coffee.
Make sure you have enough sleep during the 'cold turkey' period mind.... all part of the self-healing process. And don't get despondent. Remember there are countless other pour souls around the globe who are going through exactly the same as you are. You'll succeed. Good luck :o)

I think I've made it. Day 11

I think I've made it. Day 11 (or 13) and I no longer have any of the leg pain from my previous post. I was still getting twitches but could tell it was improving by day 9 or so. And I did end up taking ibuprofen for 2 nights (around day 6 and 7) in order to be able to sleep. But now I miss it! Not the taste or the "ceremony" of it - just the pick-me-up. Into the mental stage of withdrawal, I guess. I'm tired - just dragging and could fall asleep just about anytime, anywhere. Sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night and the 7 hours feels like not nearly enough. I am better on 9 hours but really, who has 9 hours to devote to sleep?!? The leg pain experience is now helping me though - anything whose withdrawal can be that painful canNOT be good for you! I don't care how many anti-oxidants it has or how many studies says it helps prevent Parkinsons and colon cancer. I'll get my antioxidants from a non-addictive source, than you very much!
Thanks for the support and listening - it also helps!

Hi, I gave up coffee ( &

Hi, I gave up coffee ( & other unhealthy foods) 9 days ago & have had a constant headache ever since. Does anyone know if this is normal?
I read headaches can be expected for 1-5 days. Thanks.

Day 9 and getting better (slowly !)

I've battled with caffeine addiction for many years - when I drank it I felt groggy, unfocussed and anxious yet every morning I'd start again as the withdrawal was so unpleasant. I felt totally trapped. I kept trying to taper off - by drinking tea rather than coffee, by measuring a specific dose of caffeine in pill form and replacing coffee with this, reducing slowly each day and so on. Generally I'd last a couple of days then stop tapering and go back to mainlining coffee. I spent a fortune on supplements and vitamins to help me detox and feel better, made 'rules' about how much I could drink etc. None of this worked and I was slowly driving myself crazy being trapped in the addiction.

I finally quit 9 days ago cold turkey. I had a bit of a revelation and thought "screw it" - I'm just going to stop. No taper, no supplements, no hocus pocus. Just take it a day at a time and deal with whatever comes my way. It hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be - as with so many things in life, the fear of doing it is far greater than the reality. A couple of things I did do that seem to have helped have been sleeping when I needed to - the first 2 days I slept for an hour in the middle of the day, something I wouldn't normally do. I also made sure I drank A LOT of water in the first 4-5 days. I would think 10-12 pints each day. Sounds a lot, but I just made sure I drank around a pint each hour I was awake. I went to the bathroom often, but my withdrawal symptoms were far less than I imagined, maybe the water helped flush my system ?

The withdrawal symptoms I got were tiredness and inability to focus, just feeling I was dragging around, low grade constant headache and significant muscle tension and pain. I felt my leg and back muscles all the time, constantly tense and sometimes painful. One night I had to take painkillers to give enough relief to allow me to sleep.

Now after 9 days it's getting better. I've slept better than I have in a long time and have really focussed on getting re-hydrated. My thinking and focus is clearer, I'm saving money and overall life looks better. I'm still not fully out of the woods - my back is still a little tense, my legs still twitch a bit and I still have a mild headache but it's much better than it was. I've heard it takes a couple of weeks for the symptoms to have gone, and then a couple of months to fully recover your health.

I'm looking forward to the journey. Still taking it a day at a time, but so happy to be free from that pit of addiction. I've quit smoking and drinking in the past and found both easier to stop than caffeine. It's one serious drug !

You can do it!!! I was a

You can do it!!! I was a serious caffeine diet soda drinker for about 25 years. I quit cold turkey and it was awful. I thought I was going crazy. Once the headaches were over, my muscles hurt. I was nauseous. Milk helped. I also took 1 multivitamin every day. Drank some sprite too. After that passed, I suddenly got panic attacks which i had never experienced. I was restless at night, and thought I would lose my mind. Whenever I felt that way, I would focus on doing an activity, or watching a tv show to occupy my thoughts. I went on some walks, but would feel lightheaded.
So I only tell you this so if you have these symptoms you will not be alarmed. You are not severely ill nor are you going crazy. I haven't had caffeine for 2 years now. I can honestly say it took about 1 year to be completely rid of the drug, and it is a drug. I feel great now. I sleep better. I wake up WAY more easily, and am not addicted to anything.
You can do it. Do it for your long-term health. Every time you feel terrible, think about how great it will feel to not be an addict. After my experience kicking caffeine, I have empathy for those trying to kick illegal drugs. All drugs are a serious problem that mess with your body chemistry.
You will make it, just stick with it. Be strong.
I did it! You can too!

Hey Rob thanks so much for

Hey Rob

thanks so much for writing about the pain you are going through .... am on day 9 .... legs and back are hurting like crazy ... i didnt have a clue tat this was due to giving up coffee.... ive been a coffe drinker since i was 5 years old ... been drinking atleast 1 cup coffee and around two cups of tea a day ...... its 12:30 in the night now; pain was so bad cudnt s;eep, so surfing the net ... came across your article and HELLO its all making so much sense now.... thanks, will surely not get in the trap of drinking another cup; also had given up drinking couple of years back... didnt have any problem in giving aclohol up, didnt realise coffee is crazier than booze !!!

Congratulations on kicking

Congratulations on kicking your addiction, Rob. Isn't it scary how your legs and back ache a full week after you've abstained from caffeine? It always scared the hell out of me, especially considering no one could give me a clear answer on why they hurt, not even medical professionals!

The next month or so will be tough. You will be very tempted to have one. And if you do, you will feel great. This will slowly lead back into the addiction, thinking that you can 'control' the amount you drink. Before too long, you will be drinking a pot a day again. I'm not trying to patronize you, I'm just trying to help. I've failed in the past just from losing focus and having that one, which opened the floodgates. I suspect that many others have made the same mistake. Good luck to you, I hope your recovery continues to go well.

Dave

Reduced Desire For Coffee

I recently finished reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes (after watching a movie named Fathead), it trashes the typical advice given on nutrition through a review of virtually all of the important nutrition research done over the past 100 years.

Anyway, I decided to switch to a diet of low to no carbs, and maybe it was cutting out the coffee creamer, but my desire for coffee dropped dramatically at the same time. Other posters below seem to mention its easier to go off coffee after cutting out sugar from your diet, perhaps cutting out most carbs makes it even easier.

Just thought I'd let others know that it (cutting out carbs from my diet) has reduced my desire for coffee significantly, and today I'm going to try and stop completely. I have felt more sluggish, achy, and tired from reduced intake prior to today, so it's hard to say if the withdrawal symptoms will be as intense as usual or not, and whether cravings for caffeine will be as strong as usual during withdrawal.

Hardest thing I ever did...

I decided I HAD to quit coffee,(4-5 cups a day) and for the most part, eliminate caffeine. No joke. It's been about 7 months. I've had a few slip ups, and I do drink ice tea. But the deal with coffee was that it's very acidic and it was causing my hands and knees and joints to stiffen up--at the young age of 42. Once I stopped, the stiffness went away. Symptoms: headache, foggy headed, crabby, tired and just felt like I was hungover. Durning my withdrawal, I took Excedrin migrane, which helped with the headache and had a few mg. of caffiene.

Coffee was also messing with my adrenals. It was a cycle of being drained, drank coffee to boost up, then get drained, and then need coffee to boost up. Funny thing is the coffee was causing the drain and the boost. It was an unnatural, nervous system jolt that was wreaking havoc with my body.

I still miss my coffee. I use Tecchino when I miss the am routine. But I'm glad I did it. It takes longer to wake up in the morning, but I feel my natural energy coming back, I don't have the adrenal drain and my joints don't ache!

Comment viewing options

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