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

Could someone explain brain fog?

So, I've read through about 11 pages of comments and it's been amazing. So many of the same symptoms, and I think it's actually sorting out for me a lot of problems I've been having over the last week. I'm hoping to find some reassurance in a response...

I didn't think I had a caffeine addiction, but I, without intending to, stopped caffeine for a bit. Between being away for a few days where only juices were served, then a weekend without caffeine in the house, and a day being sick, I had zero from any source (food or drink) for five days. This past Sunday I was nauseous and had a headache, so I just thought nothing of it and took a few Advil. Monday again, work up with a headache and now what I think you're all describing as brain fog (more on that below).

Normally, before this unintended hiatus, I drank 284mg of caffeine per day, Monday-Friday. Weekends were typically less.

So on Monday: I realized I hadn't had caffeine in a while and it was probably related, so I had 214mg (through soda & energy drinks), and I had a panic attack that I now assume was related. BP raised up 150/90, crazy pulse, lasted about 30 minutes before I came back down to my norm.

Then on Tuesday: More headaches, and a little afraid to hit the caffeine again. Serious brain fog. To try and combat it, because I'm not a cold-turkey kind of guy, I had 72mg of caffeine. Still had the fog and the headaches but didn't have any panic attack.

Then on Wednesday: I had 144mg of caffeine. Still some headaches, still some brain fog. But better than previously.

And today, Thursday: Another 144mg of caffeine. Headaches are still here, and foggy. No panic.

So, at 144mg of caffeine, I'm half of what I was a week ago. I feel like I should be doing better than I am on half, and I'm starting to worry that something else might be wrong. I'm considering upping my caffeine again tomorrow just to see if I get back to my normal state, or at least a bit closer, to prove to myself that it's just the lack of caffeine making me feel this way and it's not something more serious. So, to those who have been down this road, should I still be feeling this fog at half my normal caffeine, or should I really be closer to my normal state?

I'd also like to describe my "fog" because I want to make sure that I'm lining up with everyone else, and this isn't something different. I'll be sitting working on my computer or talking to someone, and out of apparently no where, I'll just feel like I'm checking out or zoning out. It's worst if I haven't moved around in a while or when I'm sitting in traffic. I feel like I can't process outside stimulus while it's going on, and I don't want to converse while it's happening. It almost kind of has that feeling of looking down when you're really high up, but without the dizzyness feeling. Is this the fog that everyone else is having?

As a last thing, my appetite has shrunk pretty significantly, which is atypical for me, anyone else experience this?

The more I read, the more I realize I want out of this crazy caffeine game, but I need to do it on my own terms when I have the availability to checkout, to have headaches, to be achy, and when I can be committed to success, and that's just not right now.

Convinced about the panic attacks

I have had several random panic attacks over the last 4 years, a few of which sent me to the ER (including one 3 months ago) followed by cardiologists and my GP, with the same full gamut of tests and the same perfect bill of health. It was suggested that I have anxiety, but I truly don't feel I do. I exercise, eat right, don't smoke, drink or do drugs, I do yoga, meditate, have supportive family/friends/fiance all of whom I see frequently, a decent job and stable finances, and generally just have no serious life issues and am a happy and lucky gal.

So after years of recurrences and of thinking on this issue, I am convinced the panic attacks have all been directly related to periods of caffeine withrawl followed by re-caffeinating. Each time I had a nagging suspiscion that it was caffeine related but I somehow managed to dismiss caffeine as not powerful enough to cause more than a headache. I also do get some heart palpatations both during caffeinated times and they actually have sometimes become worse during withdrawl. I don't know why I return to this habit over and over when I know very well that I will once again have the misery of withdrawl and then feel balanced again when I am clear of it.

Perhaps it is the intoxicating aroma of those magic, evil little beans.

Anyhow I am glad to see more doctors accepting and treating caffeine withdrawl as a legitimate thing, and I am comforted to know I am not alone as I yet again attempt to remove caffeine from my habits.

Keep calm and carry on!

To I guess it could be worse

Hi, how are you doing? Not being mean (I've been there myself), but my first thought was 'but you are doing drugs' - and caffeine IS a very powerful and insidious drug which can do a lot of harm to the body and brain. You said you didn't know why you returned to it over and over......I used to be like that - I knew it was damaging me but I still kept drinking it. But when you look up the science of it all, it explains the way we get addicted and how the addiction is perpetuated. Also, it's so ingrained in our culture (I'm from the U.K. and you can't move for coffee houses over here, too) and it's seen as completely desirable, socially acceptable and 'cool' ....did that all start with Friends? I've been told by an American friend that, over there, it's like some kind of Holy Grail, even. Also it is possible to get psychologically addicted to 'having coffee'. 'going for coffee' etc as it is associated with 'having a good time' because, of course, it does make you feel good for a while. But then you get the slump......and off you go on the cycle.

Anyway, I do agree with you on that it is evil but it is also intoxicating! So what do we do? Get off it, I guess and see how good we can feel without it. Trouble is, it's easier said than done.

I'd be interested to hear how you're doing. Best wishes.

P.S. I'm like you, I eat well (I'm vegan), I don't smoke or drink, I've been meditating for 24 years and have a lovely family etc........it sometimes feels like caffeine is my last great battle in life!

To Caffeinated

Hi, I thought I'd respond and I hope it helps. Everything I'm going to say comes out of my own experience with caffeine addiction.
1) As you've realised, when you inadvertently stopped ingesting caffeine, you went into caffeine withdrawal and so triggered some of the symptoms. I would say that all of your symptoms are part of the caffeine withdrawal process.
2) Put very simply, caffeine interferes with brain/body chemistry e.g. the production of adrenalin, adenosine, dopamine and serotonin and this imbalance produces the symptoms you are describing. You can still experience them while still having caffeine as your body/brain learns to tolerate the caffeine. There are a lots a sites to explain this properly online.
3)Sorry to be so blunt, but you cannot 'cure' your symptoms, long-term, while you are still ingesting caffeine. Your brain chemistry will only re-balance when you stop having it. This can take weeks or often months of symptoms BUT they do ease off as the process continues. I would add, here, that as your caffeine intake was moderate compared to some, your withdrawal period might not be too long and might not be as severe as it could be. So, if you stop having caffeine, you WILL experience all the symptoms you describe but it WILL get better, in time. Also, you said "I feel I should be doing better than this on half," - but I'm afraid the answer to this is 'no' as your 'normal' is 284mgs and so you will only feel 'normal' on that. So expect to feel those symptoms as you either stop or taper but remember that, as your brain adjusted to the intake of caffeine, it can adjust back to a life without it! I hope that makes sense.
4) I would just add that, if you do decide to stop having caffeine, I would advise nutritional support i.e. healthy food (lots of fruit and vegetables), no sugar, no processed food, lots of filtered water (for headaches), plenty of fresh air and as much activity as you can manage.
Good luck and I do hope this helps.

Thank you

JSL - I was happy to be browsing this post today and realized that I had gotten a response. I really appreciate your insight, especially regarding my normal intake and how any change (downward) from that will cause the symptoms I'm having. I have a lot going on right now and being able to attribute this part of my life towards a caffeine issue is reassuring. I'll keep in touch!

Sinus & Skin Problems

Can sinus pressure and a rash be a caffeine withdrawal symptom?

Neuropathy and burning sensations

Do you think that caffeine withdrawals can cause a burning sensation of the feet? I remember this happening 4 years ago just before I quit caffeine and when I woke up in the morning both feet had a burning sensation. I recently starting drinking caffeine again but not in large quantities but enough to cause withdrawal symptoms again. Have any of you ever had this before?

what doctors don't seem to

what doctors don't seem to realise is that caffeine is fat soluble, and the author of "welcome to the Dance" (an account of her caffeine sensitivity) says that it takes 3 years for every organ of the body to be free of caffeine. Gp's seem to think that the half life of caffeine can be measured by the water soluble only components of caffeine.

Relapsing

I quit my 20 year caffeine addiction 4 years ago and for several months I have been drinking a few caffeinated beverages at least 2-3 times per week. But that is enough to get the cycle started all over again. I have been experiencing withdrawal like symptoms again like the neuropathy in the feet, sleep disturbances, digestive issues, and an unexplainable rash for the past 3 months that appears daily. It resembles heat rash. Have any of you ever had a rash that you think may be linked to caffeine intake or withdrawals? In fact, like most of you have experienced where medical doctors themselves don't feel that caffeine withdrawals can last beyond two weeks which we know that is not true for mine lasted 5 months. Also some medical doctors don't feel that some of the withdrawal symptoms that we have experienced may be linked to caffeine. What I don't get is if caffeine is not in our system after a few days, then why can it take a few months for withdrawal symptoms to subside? On that note, I am going to start from today again not drinking caffeine at all. Wish me luck!

Day 1 starts tomorrow

Hey guys:

I am so glad this forum is still here. I've looked at it off and on since 2009 when I first got off caffeine. I stuck with it for 9 straight months until a new job required me to work late into the night. My adrenal glands were so shot that I could barely move or think. I was still gorging down pounds of sugar to make up for the caffeine withdrawal and just to function.

Now it's 5 years later and I am 2 years sober from alcohol but caffeine is still a problem. Surprisingly sugar is not. I still suffer from depression and anxiety and I know it has to do with the caffeine but as you all know it is a bitch to get off of. but i'm determined. My depression has caused a lot of strife in my relationships, the way I look - I lost 12 pounds and am underweight - job hopping and suicidal.

I exercised a little this morning which gave me and appetite, put me in a pretty good mood and I only had a cup of coffee and an espresso shot. This is tame compared to a double shot, then a single shot at 3pm and coffee at 2 AA meetings a day.

Tomorrow, I plan on indulging in decaf and see where that takes me. Although I am sensitive to the mild amount of caffeine in decaf it is GREAT progress. I plan on visiting this forum daily like I initially did in 2009 for encouragement.

Right now, my main worry is the brain fog and my thoughts. I drink coffee when I am upset like I used alcohol. Today I was able to curb my thoughts by doing something else. With the brain fog, my biggest fear is wondering what will happen after my body and mind normalizes. I have had caffeine for most of my life and don't recall writing (my old passion before 10 years of depression set in) without caffeine.

But I know it is what I have to do and i'll do it with God's help and the people here. Thanks for letting me share :

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