Battling addiction and ready for treatment?
Symptoms of Withdrawal from Caffeine
Discontinuing caffeine can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms due to your body’s dependence on caffeine’s effects. However, unlike other drugs, caffeine withdrawal is mostly unpleasant and doesn’t pose a significant health risk.
Although caffeine withdrawal is generally pretty mild, knowing the common symptoms and how to treat them can make the experience much easier to manage.
Most Common Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal
Caffeine dependence is quite common among coffee drinkers and those who frequently use energy drinks. The side effects of caffeine dependence become unpleasant when you try to quit caffeine intake cold turkey or without tapering off.
The most common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased energy
- Flu-like symptoms (nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, and stiffness)
- Drowsiness and sleepiness
- Depressed mood
- Hot or cold spells
- Shakiness or muscle tremors
- Blurred vision
- Decreased overall well-being
What Causes Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms?
Caffeine withdrawal is a consequence of caffeine dependence or caffeine addiction. When caffeine consumers develop a physical, emotional, and psychological dependence on their caffeine of choice, their bodies and minds struggle to function when it’s not present.
Because caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, it helps you feel awake and alert by blocking adenosine receptors associated with sleepiness, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, and releasing the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine.
Over time, your body can rely on these effects and suffer without them. For example, severe headaches are common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal because caffeine shrinks the blood vessels in your brain.
When going abruptly caffeine-free, your blood vessels widen in response, and the change in blood flow can trigger headaches or migraines.
Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline
Caffeine withdrawal is thankfully not as prolonged or dangerous as other substances like opioids or alcohol. In most cases, symptoms of withdrawal from caffeine are uncomfortable and can be treated with over-the-counter or at-home remedies.
Slowly cutting down or tapering off caffeine is the best way to avoid withdrawal symptoms. However, certain symptoms like caffeine withdrawal headaches can occur even when attempting to wean off of caffeine carefully.
The timeline of caffeine withdrawal can vary depending on what dose of caffeine you were taking and the type of caffeinated beverages or food you were using. But generally speaking, most people are withdrawal-free after 2 weeks.
- In the first few days of caffeine withdrawal, headaches, depressed mood, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, and shakiness are common. Symptoms are at their worst initially but seldom become severe enough to require intervention from a healthcare provider.
- By days 5 through 9, symptoms begin to improve. You may still experience fatigue and headaches, but there will likely be marked improvement.
- After two weeks, most people will feel completely normal and experience no more withdrawal symptoms.
Tips for Managing Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms
Luckily, most people can manage caffeine withdrawal syndrome from home, as caffeine withdrawal rarely requires medical intervention.
Over-the-counter medications and at-home remedies like ice packs are often plenty to handle the impairment withdrawal from caffeine causes.
Disclaimer: As always, speak with your doctor or healthcare professional before beginning any new healthcare regimen.
Taper Off Caffeine Slowly
Slowly weaning yourself off of caffeine is the best way to avoid having to experience withdrawal symptoms. You can start by tracking your caffeine consumption by cups of coffee or checking the milligrams of caffeine in drinks, food, candy, supplements, and pain relievers.
Opt for decaf options when you can. Although caffeine is still in the decaf versions, the dosage is significantly less but tastes the same.
Because caffeine causes you to urinate more, it can increase the amount of fluid you lose from your body.
When you have too little fluid or enter dehydration, your brain can shrink in volume and pull away from your skull. This process can easily trigger headaches, so staying hydrated throughout the withdrawal process can help avoid more severe headaches or migraines.
Try Over-the-Counter or At-Home Remedies
Over-the-counter medications and pain relievers like Ibuprofen or Tylenol are common treatments for the pain and inflammation associated with caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
However, always check whether pain relievers contain caffeine (i.e., Excedrin and Alka-Seltzer).
Other remedies some people use include:
- Use an ice pack for headaches and body aches
- Apply peppermint oil to your head and temples
- Perform acupressure—press between your thumb and index finger and move your thumb in small circles for two to three minutes, then repeat on the other hand
Get Enough Rest
Fatigue and drowsiness are some of the most frustrating symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. While there is no quick fix for these symptoms, you can help yourself feel less exhausted by ensuring you get enough sleep.
Sleep is important to our health and recovery. Ensuring you get a full night’s rest can help lessen the tiredness from caffeine withdrawal and also help speed up your recovery from caffeine dependence.
Get Your Caffeine Intake Under Control
If you or a loved one struggles with caffeine use or addiction, now is the time to cut back on the amount of caffeine you take.
You can start by tracking your daily dose of caffeine. While the average American consumes 200 mg of caffeine daily, the recommended maximum is 400 mg for healthy adults.
Talk with your doctor about your caffeine intake and the symptoms you’re experiencing. They can help you determine the best way to taper off caffeine and how you can safely consume it moving forward.
FAQs About Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms
How long does caffeine withdrawal last?
Most people experience no withdrawal symptoms after two weeks of stopping caffeine.
However, some people may experience sooner relief from withdrawal symptoms. It depends on how much caffeine is consumed and if they tapered slowly off or quit cold turkey.
Can your body hurt from caffeine withdrawal?
Yes. Headaches, body and muscle aches, and stiffness can all occur during caffeine withdrawal. Luckily, people can curb these symptoms by tapering off caffeine and using over-the-counter medications or at-home remedies to manage symptoms.
Does quitting caffeine have benefits?
Yes. Although there are no serious long-term effects of caffeine use, there are some unpleasant short-term effects. Most people find those effects disappear after stopping or cutting back on their caffeine use.
Common effects of caffeine dependence include:
- Increased anxiety
- Stomach distress
- Sleep issues
- Shakiness and dizziness
- Racing heartbeat
- Difficulty focusing
- Chest pain
Is caffeine withdrawal dangerous?
No. Caffeine withdrawal on its own is rarely, if ever, dangerous. Most caffeine users can manage withdrawal symptoms on their own. However, if other health issues are occurring, caffeine withdrawal could cause some concern.
For example, if you’re already dehydrated and begin experiencing vomiting or diarrhea due to withdrawal, you could become dangerously dehydrated and require medical attention.