Dr. Mom explores signs of coffee withdrawal
Dr. Mom explores signs of coffee withdrawal

Generally speaking, caffeine consumption is safe and has some health benefits provided it is consumed in moderation.  But because coffee is a psychoactive drug, the brain can develop a tolerance and physiological dependence in some people who use large amounts.  There are signs of coffee withdrawal that your body may go through if stop drinking coffee, after you have been consuming large amounts of caffeine for a long period.

Current medical evidence does support that coffee withdrawal (caffeine withdrawal) symptoms can occur when stopping the use of caffeine after heavy and prolonged use

What my patients often don’t expect, is that cutting back, or stopping caffeine after prolonged caffeine use can result in some unpleasant symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. 

Have you ever experienced a bout of irritability, headaches, or difficulty concentrating and knowing you just NEED that cup of coffee to pick you up???  This may be a sign that you are in coffee withdrawal. 

What are the symptoms of coffee withdrawal?

The onset of caffeine withdrawal usually occurs within 12-24 hours of your last cup of coffee.  Headache is the most common symptom of coffee withdrawal, but other symptoms to look out for include:

  1. Headache.
  2. Marked fatigue or drowsiness, decrease in energy
  3. Dysphoric mood, or depressed mood
  4. Irritability.
  5. Difficulty concentrating.
  6. Flu-like symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or muscle pain/stiffness).

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms depends on the amount of caffeine you have been using, as well as the abruptness by which you stop drinking coffee. 

If you are looking to cut back, or stop using caffeine, a slow reduction of coffee intake over 1-2 weeks may make the process more bearable. 

Thinking of cutting back your coffee intake?

50% of chronic caffeine users will experience symptoms of caffeine withdrawal if they stop.  If you are a heavy coffee drinking, it may be more helpful to reduce your coffee intake gradually, over time.  Gradual reduction will help ease the symptoms of coffee withdrawal (caffeine withdrawal). 

References

  1. Heckman MA, Weil J, Gonzalez de Mejia E. Caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters. J Food Sci 2010; 75:R77.
  2. Poole R, Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, et al. Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ 2017; 359:j5024.
  3. Wikoff D, Welsh BT, Henderson R, et al. Systematic review of the potential adverse effects of caffeine consumption in healthy adults, pregnant women, adolescents, and children. Food Chem Toxicol 2017; 109:585.
  4. Liu J, Sui X, Lavie CJ, et al. Association of coffee consumption with all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality. Mayo Clin Proc 2013; 88:1066.
  5. Griffiths RR. Principles of Addiction Medicine, Graham AW (Ed), 2003. p.193.
  6. Uhde TW. Neurobiology of Panic Disorder, Ballenger JC (Ed), p.219
  7. Happonen P, Läärä E, Hiltunen L, Luukinen H. Coffee consumption and mortality in a 14-year follow-up of an elderly northern Finnish population. Br J Nutr 2008; 99:1354.
  8. Paganini-Hill A, Kawas CH, Corrada MM. Non-alcoholic beverage and caffeine consumption and mortality: the Leisure World Cohort Study. Prev Med 2007; 44:305.
  9. Woodward M, Tunstall-Pedoe H. Coffee and tea consumption in the Scottish Heart Health Study follow up: conflicting relations with coronary risk factors, coronary disease, and all cause mortality. J Epidemiol Community Health 1999; 53:481.
  10. Lopez-Garcia E, van Dam RM, Willett WC, et al. Coffee consumption and coronary heart disease in men and women: a prospective cohort study. Circulation 2006; 113:2045.
  11. Freedman ND, Park Y, Abnet CC, et al. Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med 2012; 366:1891.
  12. de Vreede-Swagemakers JJ, Gorgels AP, Weijenberg MP, et al. Risk indicators for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in patients with coronary artery disease. J Clin Epidemiol 1999; 52:601.
  13. Sadock, B. J., Sadock, V. A., & Ruiz, P. (2015). Kaplan & Sadock’s synopsis of psychiatry: Behavioral sciences/clinical psychiatry (Eleventh edition.)
  1. Ogawa N, Ueki H. Clinical importance of caffeine dependence and abuse. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 2007; 61:263.
  2. Juliano LM, Griffiths RR. A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2004; 176:1.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here