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Caffeine Withdrawal

Caffeine Withdrawal – Symptoms and Side Effects

Some of us can’t even imagine functioning without tea or coffee. For an average American, a day doesn’t start without him/her having a cup or glass of a caffeine-infused drink. It is said that Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee every day.

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a stimulant that enhances performance by improving concentration and alertness. Mostly drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea or sodas is relatively safe but sometimes people that consume said beverages often, can develop a degree of dependency on them quite quickly, and eventually, if you regularly consume it, you’ll develop a tolerance towards it that would require you to increase the intake to get the same level of alertness and concentration. Having an overly increased amount of caffeine can cause harmful effects like high blood pressure, insomnia, and dehydration. This is called caffeine addiction or dependency being the more accurate word cause although its intake raises the amount of dopamine in the body, it is not as significant for it to cause an addiction.

What is Caffeine Withdrawal?

Once the body becomes dependent on caffeine it is hard for an individual to eliminate it from his/her diet completely as it may cause withdrawal symptoms that usually begin after 12-24 hours of not having caffeinated beverages. The avid drinkers of caffeinated beverages are familiar with at least one of the symptoms caused by caffeine withdrawal. The severity may vary depending on your regular caffeine intake.

Signs & Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal

Here are a few caffeine withdrawal symptoms and signs:

1)      Headache

The most common sign of caffeine withdrawal. It is said that caffeine causes brain blood vessels to shrink which reduces blood flow in the brain. Once we reduce the intake of caffeine the blood vessels open up increasing the blood flow in the brain. The sudden change can cause severe headaches as the brain would take time to adapt to the new increase in blood flow. The caffeine withdrawal headache can last a few days until the brain adjusts to an increase in blood flow in the brain.

2)      Fatigue

Although caffeine lessens fatigue by blocking the adenosine receptors in the brain, a neurotransmitter that causes dizziness and slows the central nervous system when the body is preparing for sleep. Nevertheless, when an individual stops or significantly reduces the intake of caffeine it can cause an opposite effect and increase the feeling of exhaustion and fatigue.

3)      Difficulty Concentrating

One of the reasons people consume caffeinated drinks is to boost concentration. Caffeine increases adrenaline in the body that causes a rise in heart rate and blood pressure which increases alertness and level of concentration.

Once you stop drinking caffeinated beverages, it has a negative impact on your concentration levels and it becomes difficult for you to stay focused. 

4)      Tremors

If an individual is immensely dependent on caffeine he/she can even experience mild tremors. Since caffeine directly impacts the central nervous system of the brain, at times too much consumption can make an individual jittery.

Tremors as a result of caffeine withdrawal can last up to two to nine days.

5)      Intense Mood Swings

Caffeine withdrawal causes intense mood swings and negative behaviors. The mood states range from feeling anxious to feeling depressed. A person can also extremely irritable as a result of caffeine withdrawal

What are the Side Effects of Caffeine Addiction?

Caffeine Addiction is majorly common, especially in the United States. Most people, especially most adults with busy lives are addicted to caffeine. While it might not be that obvious and easily noticeable caffeine addiction can cause serious side effects. Some of which include:

1)  Insomnia

2)  Anxiety

3)  High Blood Pressure

4)  Increased Heart Rate

5)  Dehydration

6)  Extreme Dizziness

How Long Does Caffeine Last in the Body?

Caffeine is said to have a half-life of about 5 hours. In layman’s terms, if you consume 40 mg of caffeine, you will have 20 mg remaining in your body after 5 hours. It can take up to 10-12 hours for your body to completely get rid of caffeine.

How to deal with Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms?

As suggested in many studies, the best way to cope and deal with withdrawal symptoms is to gradually quit caffeine. It is recommended to gradually reduce the amount of caffeine by 10% on a bi-weekly basis. The purpose of doing this is to avoid the very noticeable and significant withdrawal symptoms.

You can also shift to decaffeinated drinks. It is said that consumption of decaffeinated drinks reduces the withdrawal symptoms and even curbs cravings.

The most important and effective way of dealing with withdrawal symptoms is to be well-rested. People normally consume caffeine when they haven’t slept well or are extremely tired. If a person is well-rested, he/she might be able to keep most of the withdrawal symptoms under control.

Who should avoid Caffeine?

There are some people who should avoid caffeine at all costs or should consume it in small amounts only.

–          Pregnant women

–          Breastfeeding women

–          People who suffer from anxiety

–          Individuals who have sleep disorders

–          People with ulcers

–          People who have heart problems or high bold pressures issues.

Final Note

Caffeine addiction is an extremely common issue but at times it’s so subtle that people don’t even notice it. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to deal with if you avidly consume caffeinated drinks. The caffeine withdrawal duration varies from person to person based on the degree of dependency on caffeine. Caffeine withdrawal anxiety and caffeine withdrawal insomnia are some of the few common effects of caffeine.

If you are planning on giving up coffee and are worried about the effects of caffeine withdrawal visit our expert primary care physicians who can help you deal with the caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

– Disclaimer –

This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 04/12/2021

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  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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