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Effects of Caffeine Addiction

Many Americans regularly consume caffeine through various sources such as espresso, soft drinks, food, or over-the-counter pain relievers. While caffeine offers health benefits like increased metabolism and improved heart health, excessive intake can lead to problems. It’s challenging to track daily caffeine consumption, and understanding the effects of dependence and addiction can help identify potential issues for yourself or a loved one.

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Caffeine Addiction Impacts

Most Americans consume caffeine in some form, whether it’s espresso, soft drinks, food, or over-the-counter pain relievers.

Caffeine may have some health benefits, like increased metabolism and improved heart health, but it can also cause more problems when taken in large doses.

The amount of caffeine we have can add up fast, so it can be hard to track just how much we consume on a daily basis. Determining the effects of caffeine dependence and addiction can help you determine if you or a loved one has issues with caffeine.

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9 Most Common Side Effects of Caffeine Addiction

Although experts still aren’t sure if caffeine is truly addictive, there’s no question that the drug can cause caffeine dependence. Prolonged use of caffeine at a daily dosage of 600mg or higher can cause short-term and long-term issues, including caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

Dizziness or Shakiness

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that stimulates the central nervous system and blocks adenosine receptors that contribute to feelings of tiredness.

While this may save your Monday morning grogginess, high levels of caffeine can overstimulate the nervous system, leading to dizziness and hand and body shakes.

These side effects are also common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal and occur when you haven’t drunk any caffeine for the day. Although this withdrawal symptom will usually clear up once you drink coffee, it indicates that a physical dependence on caffeine may be present.

Increased Anxiety

Anxiety goes hand-in-hand with dizziness or shakiness from caffeine. Often called the “caffeine jitters,” increased anxiety is a very common symptom of caffeine abuse or too much caffeine.

Individuals with a pre-existing anxiety disorder may find that high doses of caffeine worsen their symptoms.

Chest Pain

Chest pain can sometimes appear alongside anxiety issues. However, some health conditions, medications, or individuals with caffeine sensitivity may experience decreased blood flow and chest pains with less than two cups of coffee.

If you experience chest pain when drinking caffeinated drinks, talk to your doctor to ensure there isn’t something more serious going on.

Sleep Issues

Insomnia and trouble falling asleep are common complaints for caffeine users. In many cases, people are unaware of how long caffeine stays in your system.

Six hours after consuming caffeine, half of it is still in your body and may not completely clear your bloodstream until after 10 hours.

However, timing isn’t the only factor in sleep issues related to caffeine’s effect. Individuals with caffeine dependence may experience sleep issues even when skipping coffee for a day, trying to cut back their caffeine consumption, or as a symptom of withdrawal.

Racing Heartbeat

Elevated heart rate is one of the ways caffeine intake increases focus and helps you feel more alert. Unfortunately, an elevated heart rate can make you feel like your heart is racing or crashing in your chest.

A racing heartbeat can certainly worsen anxiety, dizziness, or shakiness and even contribute to chest pain. If your heart races every time you drink caffeine, you may want to reduce caffeine use and talk to your doctor.

Stomach Problems

Many caffeinated drinks stimulate and contract muscles that speed up the digestive process. In particular, coffee drinkers often complain of issues like diarrhea or stomach aches. Those who consume energy drinks experience more digestive issues due to the extreme sugar content.

Common stomach issues reported with caffeine dependence or abuse include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Syspepsia (poor digestion, discomfort, nausea, heartburn, eructation, and flatulence)
  • Esophageal burns
  • Gastritis (inflamed stomach lining)
  • Ulcers
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Frequent Urination

Caffeinated beverages tend to act as mild diuretics. While frequent peeing doesn’t seem inherently harmful, this can lead to dehydration over time. Even though many drinks containing caffeine also contain water and can counteract the loss of fluids, dehydration can happen faster than you realize.

Difficulty Concentrating

Food and drinks with caffeine content can certainly aid in concentration, but large amounts of caffeine can lead to the absolute effect. Caffeine can cause an elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, and stomach distress, which makes it incredibly difficult to focus.

In the case of caffeine withdrawal syndrome, difficulty concentrating is a very common symptom. Unfortunately, some individuals will try consuming more caffeine and risk more adverse effects in the process.

Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal syndrome itself is a side effect of caffeine addiction or dependence. Even consuming moderate amounts of caffeine and quitting cold turkey can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Although withdrawal symptoms may vary depending on the sources of caffeine and the sugar content, caffeine withdrawal is thankfully considered not life-threatening. Many individuals only experience withdrawal symptoms for a few days or two weeks, at maximum.

Common withdrawal symptoms of caffeine addiction or dependence include:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Drowsiness
  • Cravings
  • Muscle tremors
  • Worsened mental health like depressed mood and anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Dry mouth
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Find Help for Caffeine Dependence or Addiction

It can be difficult to know if you or a loved one has an issue with daily caffeine intake. While caffeine addiction is very rare and still debated, caffeine dependence can occur very easily.

If you or someone you love struggles with side effects from caffeine, it might be time to cut back on coffee consumption.

Talk to your healthcare provider about the health problems you’ve been experiencing due to caffeine and see how you can safely wean off caffeine to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

FAQs About the Effects of Caffeine Addiction

How does caffeine affect the brain?

Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and increases the activity of your brain and nervous system. Caffeine also blocks adenosine receptors, which are related to feelings of sleepiness, hence why many use it to feel more awake and alert.

Similar to other stimulants like amphetamines, caffeine can trigger the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure and reward. However, caffeine does not affect dopamine as strongly as other drugs and is thought to be less addictive as a result.

What are the effects of caffeine on the heart?

Caffeine elevates your heart rate to help you feel more alert and focused. However, in excess, many caffeine users experience racing heartbeats, irregular heartbeats, and even chest pain due to an elevation in heart rate.

Thankfully, there is little documented connection between caffeine abuse and heart issues. If you experience distressing heart symptoms related to caffeine, it may be time to cut back on caffeine or talk to your doctor.

How does caffeine affect sleep?

Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 10 hours. That means a cup of coffee at 5 pm could still be affecting you as late as 3 am.

Many people experience sleeping issues due to drinking caffeine too late. However, sleep issues can also occur due to caffeine dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

What are the long-term effects of caffeine addiction?

Research indicates that regular use of more than 600 mg of caffeine per day may cause long-term effects such as sleep problems, stomach acidity, thinning of bones and fractures, and more anxiety.

Generally, these effects usually go away shortly after cutting back or quitting caffeine use.

How long does it take to recover from caffeine addiction?

It’s unclear how long recovery from caffeine addiction takes as experts debate the condition’s existence.

However, recovery from caffeine dependence is relatively short. Tapering off of caffeine is best to avoid withdrawal symptoms, but such symptoms are rarely ever life-threatening.

Caffeine withdrawal can last anywhere from two to nine days. Most people feel back to normal no more than two weeks after they’ve stopped using caffeine.

How does caffeine affect children compared to adults?

There isn’t much data on caffeine use in children. It is generally believed that children have the same risks of side effects and withdrawal symptoms as adults. The most harmful symptom for children is the potential for sleep disruption.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of AddictionHelp.com and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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  5. Minkove, J. F. (2020, December 16). New Insight Into Caffeine Use Disorder. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/articles/2020/12/new-insight-into-caffeine-use-disorder
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  7. Rodak, K., Kokot, I., & Kratz, E. M. (2021, September 2). Caffeine as a Factor Influencing the Functioning of the Human Body—Friend or Foe? Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8467199/

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