How to Deal With Caffeine Withdrawal

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Caffeine is a chemical substance usually found in coffee, kola nuts, cocoa and can be used as a stimulant for the central nervous system. It can also be added to medicines, soft drinks, and more. Studies have shown that 85% of the U.S. population consumes at least one caffeinated beverage per day, while the highest intake was found in older adults from ages 50-64.

While coffee is the most popular form of caffeine, tea and caffeinated sodas are also quite common. People often question if there is such a thing as caffeine withdrawal. The answer to that is yes. In fact, it doesn't take massive amounts of caffeine for a person to experience caffeine withdrawal. 

If you frequently consume caffeine, you may develop a physical or even psychological dependence on it. After you stop consuming caffeine, you may experience what's known as caffeine withdrawal syndrome.

Mixed race woman staying home, drinking coffee at the terrace and feeling worried about the pandemic

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Is Caffeine Addictive?

Even though it is popularly known as an addiction, caffeine is not necessarily addictive. Caffeine causes a small increase in dopamine, which isn’t enough to cause an addiction. Because coffee makes us more alert than normal, caffeine is more of a stimulant. 

Causes

Caffeine is a compound that prompts your body to release a chunk of adrenaline and dopamine, giving you energy and making you feel good. The more you gulp down a cup of coffee, the more alert you become. This is a good thing, right?

But it's easy to become dependent on caffeine and its ability to keep you up. Unfortunately, this comes with withdrawal effects that you have to deal with once you take the coffee away.

During caffeine withdrawal, a huge amount of adenosine, which is responsible for fatigue, bombards your head and weakens you. This doesn't just stop at making you tired but it also widens your blood vessels, which automatically triggers headaches.

Experts suggest sticking to about 2 cups of coffee a day will increase your focusing abilities and increase happiness.

Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

Caffeine withdrawal symptoms vary from very mild to extreme levels. The consequences of caffeine consumption increase with each daily dose. Even the sudden end to caffeine intake in small amounts causes withdrawal symptoms.

Studies have shown that the occurrence of a headache is about 50%. Symptoms usually appear 12 to 24 hours after abstinence from caffeine, peak at 20 to 51 hours, and may go on for two to nine days.

Some symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Poor concentration
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle aches and stiffness
  • Negative mood
  • Mental fogginess
  • Lightheadedness
  • Irritability
  • Decreased contentedness
  • Decreased energy

Caffeine Alternatives

Natural caffeine is usually found in natural substances such as coffee, cocoa, tea, and guarana.

Let's go back to basic biology. Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors that relax your brain; hence you won’t know when you’re tired. Because of this, caffeine is popularly known for fighting sleepiness or drowsiness and is very efficient at keeping you alert.

Unfortunately, too much caffeine consumption could cause anxiety, insomnia, etc. So here are some alternatives to caffeine:

  • Yerba Mate (78 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per ounce (oz) of consumption)
  • Matcha powder (about 44 milligrams of caffeine per ounce of consumption)
  • Chai Tea (47.4 milligrams of caffeine per ounce of consumption)

Try Caffeine-Free

Looking to cut back on your caffeine intake? Try some of these caffeine-free beverage options:

Related: I Tried Swapping Coffee for Dandelion Tea. It's About Balance

Summary

Caffeine is a chemical substance that is usually found in coffee, kola nuts, cocoa, and can be used as a stimulant for the central nervous system. Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors that relax the brain. This prevents the brain from knowing when it is tired, thereby keeping you alert.

The average level of caffeine intake should be in small amounts such as 20 milligrams-200 milligrams, which can aid energy and alertness while not significantly increasing the probability of anxiety and an upset stomach.

A sudden cessation of caffeine consumption can lead to withdrawal. Some symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include headaches, drowsiness, depression, etc. Luckily, there are also some alternatives to consuming caffeine. Some examples are chicory root coffee and maca powder.

A Word From Verywell

Even though there are health benefits to consuming coffee, reducing the amount of coffee you drink can improve your health, especially if you notice negative effects. As scary as caffeine withdrawal may sound, taking the right steps and speaking with health experts can help you gradually maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are there long-term negative effects of caffeine?

    When caffeine is consumed in small or large doses for an extended period, there are bound to be negative effects. Some of them are anxiety, insomnia, muscle tremors, etc.

  • Should certain people avoid caffeine?

    Young children and pregnant women should definitely avoid caffeine. Also, people who suffer from huge bouts of anxiety and diarrhea should also avoid consuming caffeine.

  • How long does caffeine stay in your system?

    Half of the caffeine can last for six hours after consumption and it could be 10 hours before it completely leaves your bloodstream.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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