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

Withdrawal symptoms

Interesting comment on the withdrawal symptoms. When I said I didn't get any for more than a few weeks, I think I was talking about what I would call acute withdrawal symptoms - the muscle aches, headaches etc. that are bad for the first week or two. What I'm beginning to think having read this site and through my own experience is that there are much longer term effects of coming off caffeine that may take months (or maybe years) to correct. The main reason I started drinking coffee again after a few months is that I still felt dreadful - couldn't concentrate, tired, foggy etc. In other words, I was still going through the withdrawal process, just not the "acute" phase of it.
The more I experience it and think about it, I think caffeine is a very powerful drug that royally screws your body up. I've read for example that it's fat soluble, so is stored in all the cells of the body and it takes a long time for the body to return to normal, longer (I guess) if you're operating sub-optimally from years of caffeine abuse.
I think I need to stop trying to be macho about it, work out a simple, sensible tapering plan and then accept that the full recovery process may take an extended period. I certainly can't keep living like this, exhausted and staggering through life.

Rob

I so agree, there really are severe long term effects and as you say, it surely is a very powerful drug. I've read many times that the withdrawal process can be equally as difficult as trying to get off cocaine etc which acts on the brain in the same way. People think caffeine is a mild stimulant but it's not, although I think we can tolerate it better if we don't overdo it - and when we're younger. I sometimes wonder what our world would be like if people hadn't started having caffeine in all its forms. Think about it - everyone either wired up like crazies or depressed and cranky (or worse)........and the rush of dopamine makes you act rashly sometimes e.g buying stuff which you don't want or can't afford - AND it makes you want to eat vast amounts of sugar.
Anyway, Rob, after thinking about it, I definitely agree with 60 YH, a tapering plan seems the obvious choice for you and I really hope you can do it. As you can tell, I've just had my 50mgs and am unsurprisingly chatty lol.............how embarrassing some of my post have been - ah, well, that's caffeine for you.
Confession: I've actually had a couple of really bad days and I even ended up buying 2 bars of chocolate - I haven't done that for 14 years!! As I said in my other post, childhood patterns rearing up like demons to haunt me. But I vow I will now stick to my weaning and I KNOW the symptoms will wane as I wean. I hope you can be more sensible than me Rob and just do it. Good luck. Jackie

Rob I can only corroborate

Rob I can only corroborate what you say, I have been off for 21 months and still have a lot of the wd symptoms that you mention, I think you are right to think about tapering, what does it matter how you do it as long as you succeed?

You are probably much younger than me, so it won't take this long for you!!

Is that Jackie ?

Hey, just wondering if that's you Jackie ? Sounds like (whoever you are !) you're making good progress. I have stupidly started drinking coffee (again !). When will I ever learn ? After being off it, I get about a day or two of feeling good from the caffeine then it's back to the old cycle of feeling exhausted and ill all the time. I need to get off it again, but it seems to take forever to muster the willpower to start the horrible withdrawal process again....

Rob

Hi, Rob, yes, it's me - Jackie :) I went incognito (not very well, obviously lol) as I just felt I couldn't come on here again and say I was still drinking the damn stuff (albeit only a little). I felt I was starting to sound like a broken record......but I'm glad you posted as it helps to know that there are others who are still struggling. Anyway, looks like you're stuck in a pattern - and I know what's it's like, genuinely. I've realised that we really do get stuck in a loop, not just in terms of physical addiction but also in terms of emotional and psychological habits. For example,, even though I know how bad it is for me, I STILL wake up in the morning with, not just the physical craving, but, also, with the mindset (and it's like it's set in stone!) that my morning coffee and time on the laptop, before everyone is up, is my time to relax and start the day (this comes from when it was the only time I had to myself, all day and the evening). It feels like all there is in life is coffee. Sad, I know. It's a loop that plays and it's like it controls me, like I have no reasoning power to change it and, obviously, the physical addiction plays its part in that, too. However, with weaning, that power is waning, too. Sam Carpenter has told me that if you do properly wean, your dependence reduces and if you're having a lot less coffee, you're changing the pattern, anyway. I know that the brain chemistry must adjust but I also think we have to find ways of changing the habits or REPLACING them, with something better. I'm trying to do that, as well. The book, Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean helped me with this. But I think the final realisation, for me, was that, like Sam says - I am the terminator. I have to find a way to stop it, myself. It CAN be done, though. Sorry if this is very rambling, it's really hard to explain my actual experiences (which may be very different to what other people experience Anyway, talk to me, if it helps, Rob. How many are you drinking a day? Do you really want to give it up? How rough are you feeling?

Yes, crazy thinking

Jackie. Yes, caught up in crazy thinking & behaviour. I’ve given up caffeine a few times now (over 20+ years of knowing I need to), maybe 3-4 times for up to 4 months each time. Each time I’ll get a few months in and then a crazy thought will come into my head that somehow a cup of coffee would be a good idea – I’ll have one and it will feel good as I’m not used to it, then very quickly I’m back in that exhausted, dragging around state where I’m using it just to function, but generally feeling sick and tired. Then comes normally months/years of knowing I need to stop, planning every day to do it, but never normally making it very far as I find the physical and mental withdrawal incredibly powerful. It leaves me unable to function for a few days. Part of my problem is I convince myself I have to quit cold turkey rather than tapering – that if I wean myself off it, it’s somehow cheating. I think I maybe need to get me and my stupid head out of the way and just come up with a logical tapering plan and commit to it. All the reading I’ve done on the subject by people who are qualified to comment (e.g. Roland Griffiths from Johns Hopkins Hospital) says tapering is the most effective, best way to go. I’d be interested to hear more about Sam Carpenter and the plan you’re following. Rob.

Rob

Hi, yes, I think 'crazy thinking' or, specifically, ingrained patterns or mindsets of thinking, feeling and behaviour is the key, here. I've been thinking about this a lot since you posted. I re-read my post and the phrase 'broken record' leapt off the page - i.e. stuck in the groove, on repeat. That's what we are, Rob, stuck in the 'grooves' of our minds, on repeat. I think that when we've done something or felt something, over and over, it really does get ingrained in our psyche and becomes part of who we are. Your 'crazy thought' that a coffee would be a good idea, my attachment to it as in that it will make me feel content, help me to relax etc (oh, the irony), your feeling that you've got to go cold turkey - all just damn tapes playing in out minds! And, importantly, the problem is that caffeine makes you so physically ill, bad-tempered and all the other nasty symptoms that you're at such a low par and cannot muster the willpower and energy to change that damn tape. These words don't really evoke the severity of what state my mind and psyche are in - no word of a lie! It is SO powerful and my brain chemistry is so messed up and I do still feel so rough (despite some things being a little better), I just keep letting the tapes play. It's like I haven't got the energy to fight it. Does this make sense? If I can just share this, please - one mindset that is very, very strong in me is to turn to food/sugar and I've been creating this since I was 5 years old. When I got older, I turned to caffeine, as well, and remember when I started work at 16, I used to mark the time by coffee break, lunch and coffee break, again, I have ALWAYS used junk food/sugar/caffeine (and when I was in my teens, alcohol) to pacify my feelings, relieve stress or 'give me energy' when I've been exhausted. No wonder my 'groove' is so strong. The bottom line is that now I know fully what I'm dealing with, I need to find a way to change that groove - either that or I stay stuck in it for the rest of my life. That is scary. I think I really do get it now..............and it's just occurred to me that the reason I always write a lot in my posts and analyse, in detail, is because I did that for 7 years when I was studying and then, later, at uni (doing English Lit.). Good grief, it makes me wonder what else I do on autopilot lol. What do you think??

I think your phrase 'get my stupid head of of the way' is the key..........or maybe creating new grooves and tapes. It's a tough job but maybe those grooves can be changed quicker than we think.
Do have a look at Sam's essays.......although, in some ways, I feel my understanding has come on further now. In the 'going cold turkey' part, he's very tough about manning up and getting a backbone etc - but I now believe that's not the whole story - and I know he still has a daily espresso. But I did find the essays very helpful and there is a small part about tapering. On this plan, basically, you are allowed 50mgs of caffeine in the morning and then, that's it for the day - and you have to be precise with the measurements etc so that you really are weaning. I've found that that small amount does actually take the edge right off. If you google Sam Carpenter: You Are the Terminator, it will come up (this is part 3) but you can click on to 1 and 2.

Anyway, brain damage here with all this compulsive writing lol.............so hope this helps and I'll be interested to hear what you think. I do feel that there is some hope for us, Rob. Jackie

11 days off now

Hey guys, thanks for the reassuring... do you guys find that it comes and goes in waves a lot?

I actually experienced some nice calm Thursday and yesterday, but for some reason, this afternoon I got hit with really big waves of anxiety, brain fog and headaches. Almost like my body was cycling...

Cyclical Symptoms

Hi Anon,

To answer your question, yes I do find that the symptoms/good days/bad days operate in cycles. This occurs in both the short and long terms. In the short term (in my experience) I had days that were good/tolerable, followed by days where symptoms really flared up. In the longer term, I find that symptoms can vary from month to month. This past month I had days with muscle aches, and back and limb aches, which I first had in late July/early August. This month, I'm dealing with stomach acidity and GERD problems, which hadn't bothered me much since early September.

Extreme

Well I had been using various forms of caffeine since I was 14. It wa svery addictive and I ended up ingesting a total of 4000 mg a day, approaching the lower end of a lethal dose for those without tolerance. At some point it became impossible to maintain with liquid so I would crush up caffeine pills and hold them unde rmy tongue and around my gums. Then I went for pure powder which I would snort and stuff. I'm pretty sure the withdrawl almost killed me because I had tremors and hallucinations for two days and I couldn't even redose because of the pain and confusion.

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