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.


more info for Robert

Tranquilizer Detox Withdrawal Can Last Years -ABC News

Americans take a lot of "benzos," even if they don't know exactly what "benzos" are.

In 2007, U.S. doctors wrote more than 82 million prescriptions for a type of tranquilizer called benzodiazepines, often called "benzos," which includes Valium, Ativan, Xanax and Klonopin.

The positive effects of benzos are widely discussed in blogs, and in the media. But the much appreciated "mother's little helper" drugs can have dangerous side effects that last for years. Some of the worst problems actually start once someone tries to stop taking them.

Negative symptoms began "probably the day after I stopped taking it [clonazepam] completely," said Colin Moran, 41, co-founder of benzobuddies.org, an emotional support site with practical advice to help people safely stop taking benzodiazepines.

"I woke up and I thought I had a stroke," he said. "My scalp, down the middle of my body -- everywhere on the left was numb, and I could barely move on that side of the body.

"Even though I thought I had a stroke, I was in such a confused state that I didn't even feel inclined to do anything about it," said Moran.

Moran had taken clonazepam (a benzodiazepine often called Rivotril or Klonopin) for nearly two years before deciding to take a break. He even tried to "safely" taper off the dose over six weeks.

Finally, a friend forced him to call a neurologist, who informed him that he had not had a stroke but that he was experiencing withdrawal from the clonazepam.

The numbness was only the beginning. Moran later experienced nightmares, anxiety, night sweats and a bewildering mental fog.

Moran said he had never had such symptoms before he was prescribed clonazepam for a seizure problem, called brainstem myoclonus, which was characterized by spontaneous jerks in the body, trunk and limbs.

"Now I had to keep on this small dose, just so I could move," he said.

Eventually Moran would join a minority of people who suffer from protracted withdrawal syndrome after stopping benzodiazepines.

"The two most dangerous drugs to detox off of are benzos and alcohol," said Dr. Harris Stratyner, vice chairman of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

"A lot of insurance companies want you in the hospital if you're coming off of alcohol or benzos," said Stratyner, who is also a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, and vice president of the Caron Treatment Center in New York.

Withdrawal Can Strike At Random

Not only do benzos create a physical addiction, Stratyner said the drugs can alter how the brain processes neurotransmitters that calm a person down.

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends short-term use of benzodiazepines for that very reason, warning that quitting benzodiazepines abruptly can result in more than 40 withdrawal side effects, including headache, anxiety, tension, depression, insomnia, confusion, dizziness, derealization and short-term memory loss.

However, for Moran, side effects of benzos extended to the time he was taking the drugs, as well.

Since clonazepam was the only drug available to treat his condition, Moran tried for years to take the drug, then to taper off for three months before he built up too much of a tolerance, and then to start again.

"I was a complete mess on benzos -- confused, irrational and unemotional," he said.

Two years after he started the new drugs, Moran decided to end his six-year romantic relationship.

"It just felt wrong. When I told her it was over, she told me that the medication had changed me," said Moran. "I thought it was just a reaction to the breakup."

But six weeks after his last dose, Moran said a he felt a flood of feelings he hadn't felt in years.

"I think it was just normal emotions, but it had been years since I experienced them and so, I wasn't used to coping with them," he said.

Moran said he then realized his ex-girlfriend was right.

"I tried to repair the damage I had done to my personal life, but it was way too late," he said.

To this day, Moran walks with a limp on his left side. He said he sees himself as an extreme case of common withdrawal symptoms.

Stratyner said 10 percent of people who quit abruptly may experience a "syndrome" of withdrawal symptoms that extend long after the drugs leave their bodies. This change can reverse, but for a small proportion of people, it can take months or years to recover.

"If you suddenly stop taking Klonopin (clonazepam) rapidly, you usually get cramping, you can have convulsions, you can have auditory hallucinations, nightmares," said Stratytner. "It's not unusual at all."

But no one told that to Geraldine Burns, 53, the first time she decided to stop taking a benzo called Ativan (lorazepam).

"I never had a panic attack before I stopped taking Ativan," said Burns, who remembers she was driving down a busy artery in Boston with her infant daughter and young son in the back seat when she suddenly felt like she couldn't breathe.

"It was like you're just coming out of your skin," she said.

A psychiatrist prescribed Ativan for Burns at age 33, shortly after she gave birth to her daughter. She said she felt physically off at the time, like she weighed 1,000 pounds, but that her doctors thought it was a post-partum depression.

"I was handed Ativan in the hospital and told to go see a psychiatrist," she said.

A year later, after receiving a prescription for Ativan, Burns said she still felt off.

"Then I read an article about how women could feel just how I felt, and it was an infection of the womb, and you don't necessarily have to have a fever," she said.

Burns said she called another doctor -- an internist -- about the article and he prescribed her antibiotics. Within five days of taking the antibiotics, Burns said she felt much better.

"So I stopped taking Ativan," said Burns. "I didn't know that you couldn't just stop."

The Danger of Going Cold Turkey
After the first panic attacks, Burns called her psychiatrist who, according to Burns, told her she shouldn't have stopped the pills and that she needed to take Ativan "for the rest of my life."

Burns continued to take Ativan and antidepressants for nine years; meanwhile, her anxiety and agoraphobia only increased. During that time, her body developed a tolerance for the drug, making coming off of it all the more risky.

Then, one day, at age 42, Burns went to a new gynecologist who informed her that benzodiazepines were extremely addictive. Burns decided to try and stop, then sue her psychiatrist.

"I was OK for about six months, and then I went into protracted withdrawal," she said.

Burns experienced ringing in her ears, twitching on her face and hallucinations that bugs were crawling all over her scalp.

Ten years later, many of her symptoms have calmed down. But Burns decided she would spend her time helping others through benzosupport.org and Benzobookreview.com.

Cindy, who asked ABCNews.com not to use her last name, found help through Burns and her Web site last year. Like many people with benzo withdrawal symptoms, Cindy said the only sign that she wasn't crazy were others on the Internet with similar symptoms.

"Three years ago, I was a very, very healthy 49-year-old," said Cindy, of Rhode Island. "I never had a psychiatric history; I never was on any psychiatric drugs. Never on any drugs, really."

Cindy's gynecologist first prescribed her Valium after she hit a bout of insomnia with menopause. It worked, but eight months later, she began to feel depressed and have rashes. Cindy said her doctor told her she could quit taking the drug if she liked, so she did.

Three weeks later, Cindy said she couldn't stand or walk without holding on to a wall, and she had inexplicable feelings of physical fear. Eventually, her two college-aged children found her unresponsive on the floor. They wrapped her up in a blanket and took her back to the gynecologist.

"I said, 'I need to go to the hospital,'" said Cindy. "She told me to go home."

Cindy said she has recovered slightly but is still so disoriented that she has trouble reading and writing. Eventually, she had to quit her job as a social worker.

"It took four months. I literally lost my mind," she said.

Withdrawal Can Lead to 'Derealization'

In addition to the fear, Cindy said she went through a "depersonalization," where people and objects appeared unreal and untrustworthy to her, as if she was in a dream world.

"Nothing was right," she said.

Now, Cindy said, she mistrusts doctors, and will absolutely refuse to take another drug again. Instead, she relies on emotional support from Burns while her body slowly recovers.

Burns and Moran admit their online support groups have stirred mild controversy with people's doctors for the medical advice about tapering doses of drugs. However, they said all agree their sites can provide initial emotional support to people struggling with withdrawal.

"Don't let the horror stories get to you," said Burns. "We've got lots of people who get better."

Alison Kellagher is one such person. She took benzodiazepines for 17 years, originally just to treat a couple of panic attacks she had in a new job.

"I went to a psychiatrist and he just immediately prescribed a Xanax, and it was to take every day," said Kellagher. "It helped for a number of years, but as the dose got higher, the side effect of depression became stronger."

Kellagher eventually decided to stop, and even went to a detox program to help her slowly taper off the drugs. Yet, the years had taken their toll and she experienced withdrawal.

"Then, I was in a profoundly alerted consciousness, immediately after stopping," said Kellagher. "It was the feeling of being in terror, but it was just a physiological state of terror."

Kellagher said she thinks she's lucky because it only lasted several months.

"The first three months was 24-7. Then, it started to let up a little bit by three to six months. By a year, I was pretty comfortable," she said. "I wasn't 100 percent, but I was functioning and feeling almost normal."

The experience motivated Kellagher, who worked in the bicycle clothing industry, to get a master's degree for counseling. Now, she coaches people through protracted benzodiazepine withdrawal over the phone.

"People usually need some help keeping hope alive," said Kellagher, who runs the site stoppingbenzos.com. "It's hard not to get bogged down in depression, because it's a long process."

Stomach Problems

After quitting caffeine for the third time about 3 months ago, I have been having digestive issues for for about 2-1/2 months. I have a mild to moderate burning sensation in my stomach and chest. Its a combination of gastritis and acid reflux. What was the longest any of you had digestive issues from caffeine withdrawals?


the fatigue has gone, simply stopped yesterday, had a brilliant day today, hope it lasts!!!

Rob Viv and Robert

Hello, I was going to reply to Viv and Robert and answer the q about my weight loss (thanks!) but my net is being very temperamental so will have to reply another time

Caffeine is causing 'untimely

Caffeine is causing 'untimely deaths' and its 'lethality' is being underestimated, a leading expert has warned
Caffeine is so dangerous and is being consumed in such high quantities that it should now be regulated, a leading expert claims.
Dr Jack James says that the stimulant is causing ‘untimely deaths’ and that its 'lethality' is being underestimated.
Dr James, editor in chief of the Journal of Caffeine Research, and head of the department of psychology at Reykjavik University, Iceland, says he is concerned that the substance is increasingly being added to products such as energy drinks, alcoholic drinks and medicines.
As a result, many of us are unwittingly consuming way more than we think - with worrying implications for our health and society as a whole
Dr James believes the risks caffeine poses to our health are so great that products that contain it should be taxed and restricted like cigarettes and alcohol. Sales to children in particular should be restricted.
He says that as well as tea and coffee, caffeine is found in fizzy drinks, energy drinks, bottled water, alcoholic drinks (such as Tia Maria), cookies, chewing gum, yogurt and flavoured milk.
It is also commonly found in cold and flu remedies, weight loss pills, mints, cosmetics, soaps and even tights to aid slimming.
Even more worrying, he says that caffeine is also frequently used as a diluent (cutting agent) in illicit drugs.
He notes that while some countries in Europe and Scandinavia have begun to take regulatory action, including sales restrictions and product labelling, most countries including the UK and the U.S. have a ‘regulatory vacuum’.

In his provocative editorial 'Death by Caffeine: How Many Caffeine-related Fatalities and Near-misses Must There Be before We Regulate?', he argues that the trend of children downing energy drinks is exacerbating the problem.
He says that in order to highlight the risks of caffeine, products should be labelled with the amount they contain and sales to children in particular should be restrict

Caffeine: Table shows a range of drinks in order of caffeine content and their relation to daily allowances

The U.S. Food and Drug administration announced last year that it is investigating reports of five deaths being linked to Monster Energy drinks. The company has denied any link.
And in 2009, a father from Bolton said his 11-year-old son hanged himself after energy drinks changed his behaviour. Lee Johns said his son Tyler was a happy-go-lucky child until he started downing the drinks to make himself feel grown up.
Tyler went from thriving at school and impressing neighbours with his good behaviour to becoming 'hyper and disruptive' in the months leading to his death last year.
A one-litre caffeine drink was lying near Tyler's body when his mother found him hanging in his bedroom.
Dr James is also concerned that sporty teenagers who drink lots of caffeine are putting their hearts under a great deal of strain.
He adds that although caffeine has been widely considered to be harmless, 'awareness is increasing that its consumption is associated with substantial harm, including fatalities and near-fatalities'.
He says that caffeine was named as a contributing factor in 6,309 cases that the American National Poison Data System was notified of in 2011.
Lethal: Dr Jack James (left) says caffeine is causing ‘untimely deaths’ . In 2009, 11-year old Tyler Johns (right) was found hanged after downing energy drinks
And the annual number of emergency room visits in the U.S. associated with energy drinks jumped 36 per cent to 20,000 in 2011 compared to the previous year, according to a report released by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.
In just one year, the substance killed four people in Sweden, adds Dr James.
He says that caffeine - in the form of energy drinks - also offsets the sedating effects of alcohol and encourages people to drink more.
Furthermore, there is a 'growing body of evidence' which indicates that compared to alcohol alone, adding caffeine increases the risk of having unprotected sex, experiencing or committing sexual assault, drink driving and being violent.

There is also evidence that children who drink caffeine are more likely to use alcohol, drugs and smoke in the future
There is also evidence that caffeine consumption by children may also make them more likely to use alcohol, drugs and smoke in the future.
According to the Food Standards Agency, there is no recommended daily limit on caffeine because the amount people can tolerate varies hugely depending on a number of factors, such as age, weight and average caffeine consumption.
A study by the government regulatory agency Health Canada concluded that the average person can have up to 400mg of caffeine a day without experiencing negative affect, such as anxiety or heart problems.
Indeed, we can become used to caffeine over time. The only exception is for pregnant women, who are advised to consume no more than 200mg of caffeine a day, as it can have adverse effects on birth weight and pregnancy outcome.
Children should have no more than 75mg.
An 8oz can of Monster Energy has 92mg, while an 8oz Red Bull can has 83mg. A bottle of Coca-Cola contains 58mg of caffeine, while a an 8oz cup of decaf coffee has 5mg and hot chocolate has 9mg.
Caffeine intoxication is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a medical condition. Symptoms include nervousness, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, stomach upset, tremors and rapid heartbeat.
Two known triggers of the heart rhythm disorder supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) are caffeine and alcohol, so the risk increases if they are taken at the same time. SVTs can make your heart beat very quickly - up to 160 beats per minute.
The result can be terrifying palpitations, chest pain, dizziness and feeling out of breath.

Re Caffeine is causing.....

Thank you for posting this. I totally agree as I am reaping the terrible effects of 50 years usage. You can get away with it when you're young but the damaging effects mount up. I think that many people do not take the toxic and harmful effects of this legal drug seriously - and they are derisory, judgmental and scornful of others' difficulties in dealing with this drug. So be warned, people, the toxic and damaging effects DO catch up with you, eventually......and it is seriously worrying to see youngsters drinking so much coke and so many energy drinks etc. I think one of the main problems is attitude; caffeine, particularly in the forms of coffee, coke and monster drinks, is not only socially acceptable, it is also seen as 'cool' (much like smoking used to be many, many years ago). So people view it as 'only coffee/tea/whatever' - and make fun of people who are struggling to deal with a genuine drug problem. Also, as your post points out, caffeine is everywhere (in coffee houses which are EVERYWHERE), it's in food, drinks, medicine etc etc - and it's legal. The evidence for the damaging effects of prolonged caffeine usage on the brain and body is irrefutable and science links it in with other class A drug usage (for prolonged usage). Thank you for taking it seriously and, again, for posting this.

Hi Jackie, I posted it in a

Hi Jackie,

I posted it in a tearing hurry last night, and should have added that it was from a 2013 article in the Daily Mail or Daily Express. There is so much unpublished research on caffeine it seems, I only wish that I had had access to the web all those years ago!!

I do hope you haven't been discouraged from tapering off caffeine by the hostile reception that the idea received on this site. I don't think that people find it easy to believe that tapering actually REDUCES recovery time, but I am here to tell you that it can and does, and that if I had taken my own advice, I would have recovered by now.

However, I AM recovering, albeit slowly, my fatigue is so much better at the moment, and the muscle tension(back ache etc) is not completely due to the caffeine, although mostly it is. Because I was on benzos for half my life (benzos are muscle relaxants on top of everything else), after I cold turkeyed off benzos my muscles were completely seized up for years (it was agony), (I couldn't turn my head in either direction for 6years) and they still had not completely recovered when I stopped drinking caffeine, so there's a combination of causes for the long duration of these symptoms in my case.

Please do what YOU feel YOU need to do in terms of tapering off, at least I have been enabled to STAY off , unlike a lot of cold turkey promoters on this site. It's NOT a COMPETITION!!

Viv, I am kind of in the

Viv, I am kind of in the same boat as you as I've been on and off (mostly on) benzos for the past 20 years. Congrats on getting off of them.
I find myself trying to taper off them seriously now, along with caffeine and cigarettes. Cutting back on the caffeine has made me want to smoke way less, which has been a bonus. I realize now, that, all this time, I was taking benzos to counter the effects of the caffeine and caffeine to counter the effects of the benzos. Craziness.
I have posted on here before but never seem to follow up on any of my posts, sorry everyone. I admire all of you and find all of your stories and honesty and eloquence so helpful. It just seems like all my thoughts are so vague and I have a hard time organizing them into anything coherent. I wonder what could be causing that???
Also, it seems like I spend more time researching caffeine addiction than actually doing something about my own.
Good luck to you all and thanks for the inspiration!


Robert I am sorry to hear that you are still taking benzis, you MUST taper off them, people have died cold turkeying from benzos. they are 1000 times more difficult to get off for most people than caffeine. If you go to benzobuddies.org, you can get advice and support there. Please do this if you have not already done so.

I wish you all the best and I hope you can get off those toxic pills asap, it is so worth it when you are off and recovered!!

Good to hear from you

Hi Robert, it's good to have you here. I can identify with what you're saying - particularly the bits about vague, foggy thinking and spending more time researching caffeine addiction than actually addressing it. I must have done thousands of Google searches looking for an easy, effortless way to quit. I was also looking for inspiration and stories of people who have successfully done it with (hopefully) positive outcomes.

I've found out a few things in the (literally) years I've been at this. The main one is that caffeine is a serious drug. I don't know if it only affects some people in such a severe way, but it has seriously compromised my quality of life. It's also not at all easy to get off and stay off. It's more powerful than most give it credit for and the withdrawal effects are nasty. I should know, I'm feeling them now !

I hope you stick around and figure out a plan of action. That word "action" is the key one though - whatever you choose to do and however you choose to do it, you have to do it. As they say in recovery circles, if nothing changes, nothing changes.

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