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

Digestive and sleep problems

I quit caffeine again about two months ago and after I quit I have been having digestive and sleep issues. My stomach has a slight ache with some flatulence and my bowels are all out of wack. I had to drink prune juice to help things but even that made my tummy hurt. Also my sleep pattern is bad. I wake up throughout the night and can't get a good nights sleep. Can this still be caffeine withdrawals? If so, how long more can it last???

Sounds like what happened to me

Withdrawal from caffeine is not pleasant in my experience. The main symptoms I had were headache and tiredness/inability to concentrate in the first couple of days. It was extreme, I just wanted to put my head in my hands and sob, or put my head on the desk and sleep. My stomach was very upset from drinking coffee, although this lessened the longer I was off it. I always drank strong black filter coffee, which is pretty acidic.

After a few days I started getting muscle aches and spasms. My back muscles got very tight and tense, like I was under terrific stress, and my leg muscles would spasm and ache. One night it was so bad I was awake all night as I didn't have any painkillers. After that I took a combination of paracetamol and ibuprofen at night for about a week so I could sleep.

That said, one of the other big effects I noticed was feeling exhausted but not being able to get to sleep. Then when I did I would wake up early like you. I would be awake at 5 (sometimes earlier) and spend the next few hours trying to doze before I had to get up for work.

It is a powerful drug. I know I've said it before, but I really hope I'm done with it this time. The challenge for me is when I forget how bad the withdrawal is, get tired and think "aha ! I know what would perk me up...". I think I need to regularly visit this site to remember just how nasty addiction is and how important recovery is.

Rob

I do feel for you, going through this when you have to get up for work. It adds extra stress when you know you have to get up. I'd take painkillers, for sure, at least you know that's a fairly short term thing.
How long have you been caffeine free now? I hope things improve for you soon. I fell back down the rabbit hole again - I've explained it in my post 'Viv and everyone' - but I am determined to get it under control, again, and am back to weaning 1 a day. Good luck and let us know how you're doing, Rob. Jackie

I know about rabbit holes...

Hi Jackie. I've been off it for all of a week now ! I gave up for 2 weeks, then decided just one would be a good idea and spent a horrible week back on it again. I'm training for a half marathon and ran 12 miles - as a result I was feeling so good about myself that I decided a coffee would be a good idea. Where's the logic in that ? My head was a mess, stomach ached, I couldn't think etc. All the usual madness.

Addiction is a very powerful thing and while we can rationally express how caffeine (and other drugs) are harming us, one of the main issues with it is that part of us likes the drug and the effect it has on us. In your situation for example, when something bad happened you sought comfort in caffeine. As I've mentioned before, I'm a recovering alcoholic and have seen hundreds of people who literally destroy themselves through addiction. You'd think it was obvious what the cause of their misery is and what they need to do to end it, but at some level they still see alcohol as their friend. "If your life was this bad you'd drink too". It really is insanity and a big part of recovery is seeing the truth about the drug - it isn't an answer, it's the problem. A Trojan horse - your worst enemy masquerading as your best friend.

I hope I'm done with it now. I'm just trying to keep it simple and take it a day at a time. My job is to get my head on the pillow tonight without drinking any caffeine. I'll worry about tomorrow when it comes.

Rob

Hi Rob, thanks for your reply. Great, insightful post and your comments really struck a chord with me. When you're through this, I think you could really help people with addictions as you have such a grasp and an deep understanding of what is happening......and I can perfectly understand why you went back to it again. And you're right about the failure of rationality because I recognised the truth of 'part of us likes the drug and the effect it has on us.' So true as, for a while, it makes you feel more than OK, it makes you feel connected to yourself and to other people again; it takes you out of your zombie-like state and gives you back your humanity, hopes, dreams and motivation. That sounds like an exaggeration - but that's how it is for me as I have become so sensitive to it, I think. But, of course, it is a false, drug induced state and the follow up, later in the day, is the slump and all that brings with it. So it is not a real life and you realise that it really is 'your worst enemy masquerading as your best friend', as you said. So true. Seeing and experiencing the truth is crucial but, still this morning, I woke up craving that short lived way to feel better. I'd already put out a lower dose as I'd already decided that the only way out was to make my coffee so that I DIDN'T enjoy it or get that lift, as much. Aversion therapy, so to speak. I had half caf/half decaf and inadvertently made it with coconut milk - and it wasn't a quarter as enjoyable and, of course, less caffeine meant hardly any lift. I will carry on doing this until I really don't want the damn stuff. Again, this isn't coming out very well (brain fog), but your words really struck home - 'it isn't an answer, it's a problem'. That really needs to be my mantra and I need to spray paint it on every wall in my house! Rationality demands that we see the truth of the chemical cravings and false notions of what the drug really is about. Thanks a lot, Rob, and best of luck to you in seeing past your own Trojan horse. G

kikaida

Waking in the early hours is a classic symptom of withdrawal, as you're probably aware. How long it lasts depends on how long you were drinking coffee, how much and general sleep patterns, anyway. People seem to vary so much in how they react to stopping caffeine - so it could be weeks or months. I'd say, stay in bed, though. I got into the habit of getting up (I couldn't bear how it felt) but that set up a new pattern. I started to stay in bed and eventually did get back to sleep.
Caffeine acts as a bowel stimulant so, if you stop, you might have problems. Drink plenty of water, sufficient fiber in your diet and let it get back to 'normal'. Good luck. Jackie

hi Jsl, I think that is a

hi Jsl, I think that is a good idea, to try and stay in bed, funnily enough, I am starting to do that too, because, as you say, a new pattern started up of me having to get up at 2 or 3 am and do things for hours, resulting in even worse fatigue. I am having a sudden rise in anxiety and depression as well, which is very strange, considering the time that I have been off. I would love to know if anyone else has been hit with new symptoms after being off caffeine for ages and ages.

Good luck to everyone trying to get off or recover from caffeine addiction

Viv and everyone

I am genuinely astounded by how patterns of behaviour, linked to psychological and neurological processes can become completely imprinted on the brain. We truly are creatures of habit and I think I finally understand the root of saying. I always used to think it was a throw-a-way line but it is oh so surely not. When a powerful drug which creates a biological urge to seek a remedy for a brain which is screaming out for relief is added to to mix, an addict is born and the rest is like swimming in Dante's Hell. For me, this has been no exaggeration, as all my demons, fears and angers etc emerged in withdrawal and whilst weaning.
So for people, such as you and me, a lifetime of drinking such a drug brings many, many problems and the massive task of re-wiring all of those responses. Coupled with the problems of aging, in general, and the pressures of a full-time caring role, this can reap havoc with our lives and our health. I think I just needed to say that.
But the good news is that re-wiring is possible and new habits can be created. It takes a lot of energy and determination, though, and I am sad to say that I went back to caffeine when I fell back into one of those old habits and responses. We found out that my wonderful, beautiful 3 year old granddaughter is autistic. Now in itself, that is not the end of the world. We can get a lot of help and help her to grow and develop as much as she can to have happy and fruitful life. She is surrounded by love and people who care. But, on top of everything that's happened to my family in the last 20 years, it all seemed too much to bear and I felt heartbroken. The only thing to stop me feeling that pain was caffeine. It was SO easy to slip back down the rabbit hole and was like I'd never been away. Lesson learned again.
But, fighting the good fight, as they say, and never giving up, I'm back to weaning and am currently back to 1 in the morning. I physically feel so ill, exhausted and depressed, you would not believe (well, actually, you all would because most of you know what it can be like).
The one thing that seems to have changed in me, though, is that THIS time, I see my weaning as a 'scientific' re-processing of my neurotransmitters, rather than as a way of just wanting and hanging on to drinking the damn stuff, if that makes sense.

I apologise for unloading here - but there's nowhere else to do it.

And, Viv, I really am sorry you are still struggling. I know how difficult it must be for you. You must have been very strong to get off and stay off of the caffeine. Staying in bed does help and then when you DO start to fall back to sleep (even if it's only half and hour), you start to BELIEVE that you can and THAT is a big, big help. TC. Jackie

don't apologise for

don't apologise for unloading, it really helps other people to read how you are getting on, I am sorry that it is so difficult for you too. I don't feel strong at all, but thank you for saying that I must be. I think that I don't crave caffeine any more because it made me feel so dreadful when I tried to get back on it after my ct. It made my throat so sore that it bled, and irritated by stomach so badly that i was producing blood in my stools (v frightening), plus it made me so nauseous and dizzy that i couldn't stand up. So there has been no choice about it for me.

I have been researching the Gupta programme for retraining the brain and it makes sense, I may do it.

if you google Gupta programme you can get a free introductory series of videos, and his theory makes a lot of sense to me, It is a programme ostensibly for CFS, but works for loads of other conditions.

I'd like to know what you think about it, if you have time to check it out. It works on the theory that your body doesn't detox properly because your brain is always revving up your immune system and you can calm it down by retraining it. (Meditation plus other methods)

thanks for all your help,

Viv

Viv

Thanks for your support and I can see why you just had to stop having it - that must have been pretty scary. I went in to the Gupta site but couldn't see how to get in to any information. I'll have another look when I've got a bit more time. I hope you're doing awap and don't feel too bad on this rainy, cold Sunday. TC Jackie

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