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Caffeine Addiction Treatment Information

Caffeine addiction is common in the US, where over 150 million adults drink coffee daily. Since caffeine is so commonplace in Starbucks drinks, colas and energy drinks, few people take caffeine addiction as seriously as alcohol and drug addiction. However, too much coffee can be dangerous.

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How Does Caffeine Work

Caffeine can be addictive but not to the point where it alters the brain’s reward center and bodily pleasure signals. Therefore, caffeine addiction is not treated with the same level of seriousness as cocaine and heroin addiction. It wasn’t until 2012 that the World Health Organization classified caffeine addiction as a clinical disorder.

Caffeine absorbs into the bloodstream through the small intestine and penetrates the blood-brain barrier. Once inside the brain, caffeine blocks adenosine, the human cell chemical that causes fatigue. The blockage of adenosine receptors frees up natural stimulants, namely dopamine, which enhances energy and alertness.

Like any stimulant, people should limit their caffeine consumption. People who drink caffeine in excess quantities (400+ milligrams daily) lose the benefits and drink unhealthy amounts to get the same buzz. At this point, addiction takes hold. 

Effects of Caffeine Addiction

Caffeine has side effects that can undercut its benefits as a stimulant and energy booster. Some people get into bad moods after a few cups of coffee. Others get nervous and anxious. As addiction takes hold, some of the worst effects of coffee include:

  • Sleep disruption – People drink caffeinated beverages for energy. This can be detrimental when caffeine overloads the system and makes people restless at bedtime. People who drink too much coffee often find themselves unable to get the amount of sleep they need each night. 
  • Migraines and other headaches – As with any addictive substance, caffeine addiction can correlate to headaches. Some users get stress headaches after several hours without caffeine. Others get headaches in the morning if they wait too long before their first cup. Some users believe that coffee is an antidote to headaches.
  • Irritability – People can get irritable and snappish when they’ve had too much caffeine. As a stimulant, caffeine accelerates people’s impulses. Workaholics work faster when they’ve had the buzz. Talkative people yak endlessly after a few cups. People with agitation streaks are typically more hot-tempered and short-fused when caffeinated.
  • Accelerated heartbeat – As a stimulant, caffeine accelerates breathing and heart rates. This can be scary for people over 40 and those with pre-existing heart conditions. It can be dangerous when people mix caffeine with depressants like alcohol, which slows the heart. The contradictory effects of caffeine and alcohol can cause arrhythmia.
  • Muscle tremors – The energizing effects of caffeine can go haywire in certain people who abuse caffeinated drinks. Some people shake and tremor after too many cups. On days when a person is nervous or anxious about something, he/she is better served with a calming drink like chamomile tea.
  • Nervousness – Caffeine can have negative physical and emotional effects on nervous people. If someone is terrified about their current situation or the upcoming news, coffee is not going to calm that person. Coffee doesn’t make people better prepared for challenges, hardships and danger.
  • Nausea – Coffee can make people nauseous if they consume too much, especially if they mix it with alcohol and/or drugs. If a person overeats with coffee, the overload could cause stomach cramps and indigestion. Some people lay down in these moments but can’t sleep off the discomfort because of the caffeine.

Caffeine has no health benefits that can’t be found in better sources. For people who drink coffee in moderation, it can work as a laxative, but so can prunes. It can enhance mood and reduce depression, but so can blueberries.

Symptoms of Caffeine Toxicity

Caffeine addiction can spiral into bodily damage and annoying physical and emotional problems. If a person drinks three times the daily recommended limit (400 mg x 3 = 1,200 mg), it can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness – Too much caffeine can cause a sense of overload, especially when mixed with other stimulants (meth, cocaine) or contradictory downers (heroin, alcohol). Some people get nauseous and dizzy when they have too many impurities in their systems counteracting at the same time.
  • Anxiety – People with pre-existing anxiety could feel it multiple after downing excessive amounts of caffeine. A person could be anxious about work, family, relationships, friends or health. Caffeine makes the heart beat faster, which isn’t good for people who need calming effects. 
  • Tremor – This condition is typically caused by age, muscle fatigue, stress and low blood pressure. People can also get tremors from caffeine addiction. For people with the aforementioned conditions, caffeine can exacerbate the problem. Anyone who struggles with stress or muscle fatigue, especially those over a certain age, should limit their caffeine intake.
  • Heart rates, contractions – Caffeine affects the heart in multiple ways. When people get their caffeinated buzz, it makes their heart beat faster. Caffeine also has enzymes that stimulate heart contractions. Too much coffee can overwhelm the heart, especially in people with heart conditions.
  • Sweating – Panic, anxiety and tremors — all symptoms of caffeine addiction, especially among high-strung individuals — can cause people to sweat in normal temperatures. It can happen at night when the caffeine user struggles with insomnia, or during the day while fighting nerve stress.
  • Agitation – Emotional and illogical people often get irritated over real or perceived slights and unexpected mishaps. A volatile person might drink coffee to get energized each day, but caffeine’s effects could also spur negative moods that require energy, such as agitation and short-temper.
  • Frequent urination – Coffee is a fluid drink that filters quickly through the body. Most people need to urinate within 30 minutes of consuming a cup. People who drink coffee nonstop throughout the day usually have to urinate constantly. Unlike water, a urinary fluid with cleansing benefits, coffee leaves toxins in the bloodstream.
  • Upset stomach – When people over-consume anything — especially unhealthy foods and drinks with, at best, dubious benefits — it can cause indigestion and heartburn. Drinking coffee throughout the day can cause stomach cramps and discomfort. People who overeat often drink coffee to pass things through but this can cause dehydration and constipation.

Caffeine toxicity is most dangerous for people with health conditions such as heart disease, liver damage and respiratory problems. When people mix caffeine addiction with other vices (alcohol, drugs) it can amplify the bad effects and lead to strokes and heart attacks.

Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal

When people stop drinking caffeine, it’s a shock to the body. People who’ve long drank coffee for “the buzz” have to find new ways to stay energized and alert once they swear off caffeine. The first few days can be especially disorienting. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headache – People with caffeine addiction typically rely on coffee for energy and clarity. When they don’t have coffee around, they often get stress headaches. For some, the headaches are simply due to caffeine separation anxiety. Some think that caffeine is the perfect cure for headaches but there are healthier remedies (warm showers, protein, rest).
  • Irritability – Abstinence from a favored poison often causes irritability. While caffeine itself can make high-strung users irritable, caffeine withdrawal can make easygoing individuals irritable. The irritation is largely due to feelings of incompleteness without caffeine.
  • Fatigue – The foremost reason people start drinking coffee is for the buzz. Regular drinkers rely on coffee for energy. Caffeine consumption can indirectly cause fatigue when the user gets restless at night and doesn’t get sufficient sleep. If a person is not used to days without caffeine, the shock could lead to more intense fatigue. 
  • Anxiety – As with irritability, caffeine withdrawal can cause anxiety due to the separation factor. It’s hard on most people emotionally to give up on things they’ve grown accustomed to, like coffee.
  • Difficulty concentrating – People also drink caffeine to feel more alert. Without caffeine, it can be hard to concentrate on work, studies and art projects. This is partly due to the separation anxiety from caffeine, which can be distracting. 
  • Depressed mood – Withdrawal causes depression. For the recovering caffeine addict, it can be depressing to get through days without a cup of coffee in hand because the ritual is customary. In a sense, caffeine recovery requires people to restructure their days without coffee and caffeinated energy drinks.
  • Tremors – People often get jitters during rehab. It’s part of the physical and emotional stress that comes from sudden abstinence. Withdrawal makes people feel anxious, moody and yearning for the buzz of caffeine. 
  • Low energy – When people rely for many years on caffeine as their daily energy booster, it’s hard to feel energetic without coffee or caffeinated energy drinks. It takes time for the body to readjust. People often sleep more as they go through withdrawal.

Caffeine withdrawal symptoms typically last between three and seven days. The onset usually occurs within six hours of the last cup. If a person drinks coffee throughout the day, the first evening can be rough if he/she quits cold turkey in the afternoon.

8 Ways to Quit Caffeine

There are many ways to quit caffeine, including some that involve few withdrawal symptoms. Some people dive into the deep end and abruptly quit caffeine. Others take the easiest approach possible and reduce their intake little by little.

  • Reduce consumption – To avoid the shock and stress of caffeine withdrawal, it’s best to taper off coffee and/or caffeinated energy drinks on a gradual basis. If you normally drink 4-5 cups per day, reduce it to 2-3 cups for a couple of weeks, then bring it down to 1-2 cups. Another way to reduce caffeine slowly is to use fewer granules and more water per cup.
  • Take days off – An alternate way to cut down on coffee is to take certain days off. You could abstain on odd days (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) or have three-day weekends free of coffee. With the interruptions, you might desire coffee less and drink fewer cups during the on days.
  • Quit immediately – Some people can quit caffeine cold turkey and tough out the withdrawal phase. Most people don’t have enough willpower. If you’ve quit habits abruptly in the past, this could be the best option, especially if the habit has gotten dangerous.
  • Stop on a vacation – One of the best opportunities to stop or replace a habit is on vacation. When you’re out of town, you tend to follow a different schedule than the normal routine back home. Vacations take you out of the ordinary; away from the daily setting where coffee is a mainstay.
  • Pick a substitute – One option that doesn’t require as much discipline is to replace coffee with an energizing caffeine alternative. Pero has long been marketed as a coffee alternative, made of barley, chicory and rye. Two alternatives that have recently gotten popular are Ka’Chava and MUD/WTR.
  • Sleep more – Coffee withdrawal makes people tired because the energy buzz is gone. This could also be a sign that you need more sleep. If you go off coffee and get drowsy, allow yourself to take naps. It’s best to nap before 2:00 pm for no longer than 25-40 minutes. This could help you feel more alert and energized.
  • Take ibuprofen – To get past the headaches and physical withdrawal symptoms, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help. For headaches in particular, it can help to take warm showers and drink tea with protein-rich meals and ibuprofen.
  • Focus on the benefits – Most things in life take time to come to fruition. Longtime coffee drinkers must cross a bridge to live caffeine free. It can be a bumpy ride but it’s well worth the trouble. When you decide to cut caffeine from your life, focus on all the benefits until the cravings are gone. 

Compared to hard drugs and alcohol, caffeine is relatively easy to quit. It might be hard to imagine mornings without a cup or two of java but there are healthier alternatives.

Get Treatment for Caffeine Addiction

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

If you or someone you know struggles with a caffeine addiction and its detrimental effects, find a healthier alternative and reduce your consumption today. If you get tired, take a nap. Some people sleep 5-6 hours each night and use coffee all day to stay wired. Fatigue could be a sign that you need 7-8 hours of sleep each night to be fully rested.

If you need further help, contact a nearby treatment center and ask about their applicable outpatient programs and financing for people with caffeine addictions.

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