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Understanding Caffeine Addiction and Withdrawal

by Dr Prem Community Writer
Caffeine Addiction

It’s in your coffee, tea, favorite sports drinks, and even chocolate! It’s caffeine and it’s used by millions of people to get a quick, safe energy boost. Or is it? Did you know that caffeine can actually become addicting? And it can cause damage to your body if consumed long-term in large doses? People choosing to kick their caffeine habit can also go through withdrawals. Decreasing your caffeine intake can cause the same symptoms related to a drug detox. Read on to learn more about this seemingly safe ingredient that can actually wreak havoc on your health and your life.

Why is Caffeine Addictive? 

Let’s start out by saying that caffeine in itself is not actually addictive. Instead, people become dependent on caffeine. Their bodies and minds rely on the feeling that caffeine gives them. Like many other drugs (and yes, caffeine is considered a drug), consuming it enhances your body’s dopamine signals to the brain. Because dopamine levels in the body control your movement, emotions, and motivation, when people drink coffee, they feel more alert and awake. Caffeine is known as a stimulant.

Why is Quitting Caffeine so Difficult?

 insomnia

The reason it’s so difficult to wean yourself off of caffeine is because you become physically and mentally dependent on this stimulant. Your body becomes physically addicted to the spike in dopamine that gives you increased energy. When you no longer have this boost, you will experience physical side effects – including headaches, irritability, insomnia or fatigue, and mood swings. Stopping or limiting your caffeine consumption can also affect your mental state. Humans are creatures of habit. We like to perform the same routines each day and find comfort and familiarity in doing so. When you no longer stop at your favorite coffee shop each morning or enjoy a hot cup of Joe over breakfast, you feel like something is missing. You may feel depressed or saddened at eliminating this ritual from your routine. Lack of caffeine can temporarily impact your mood and ability to process information.

How Much Caffeine is Too Much? 

There’s no standard as to how much caffeine is too much. Everyone is different and certain levels of caffeine will affect people differently. Limiting your caffeine intake is usually the result of other behaviors related to your caffeine dependency. It’s recommended that a standard adult can safely consume 400 milligrams of caffeine each day, which is equivalent to four cups of coffee. This can also be compared to 10 cans of soda or two energy drinks (depending on size). That’s quite a bit of caffeine! It’s important to check all labels before consuming energy drinks or other caffeinated beverages to monitor how much you’re consuming.

But if your caffeine consumption is ruling your life, it may be time to take a break. Some signs that it’s time to take a caffeine break are the following:

  • Your body needs increased amounts of caffeine to achieve the same stimulating effect
  • Your doctor recommends you reduce your caffeine intake
  • You recognize that you’re consuming far too much caffeine each day
  • Your caffeine intake is causing health complications

There are several health complications that can result from long-term caffeine intake. These include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive complications
  • Insomnia
  • Breakdown of muscles
  • Anxiety

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect you may be consuming too much caffeine, it’s best to limit your intake and seek a medical opinion and diagnosis. If you’re prepared to cut back on your caffeine intake, there are two methods to try it out – weaning yourself off or cold turkey. These are common methods for detoxing from any addictive substance.

How to Wean off Caffeine
 Caffeine Addiction

Close-up Of A Businessman Checking Credit Score Online On Cellphone While Having CoffeeWeaning off of any substance should be done gradually and at your own discretion. If you currently consume 4 cups of coffee per day and 4 sodas, reduce that number to 3 coffees and 3 sodas per day. If this seems like too drastic of a decrease, try reducing only 1 caffeinated drink per day. Once your body as adjusted to this amount (between 5 and 7 days), you can begin cutting back even further. The benefits of this process are that your body can gradually adjust to the change. You’ll experience lesser withdrawal symptoms and you will be able to perform daily tasks at normal capacity. If you are suffering from serious health complications related to your caffeine intake, weaning may not be an option. For an immediate fix, you can try the cold turkey method.

How to Stop Using Caffeine Through The Cold Turkey Method 

Although the cold turkey method is the perfect way to immediately cease all use of caffeine and prevent any further damage to your body, it also has serious side effects. Stopping caffeine intake is a shock to the system. You will not only experience the physical symptoms of withdrawal – including headaches, irritability, fatigue or insomnia, and disorientation, but it could also put you out of commission for days or even weeks, depending on the severity of your dependency. The cold turkey method will also making you instantly aware of just how dependent your body once was on this powerful stimulant.

Take a long, hard look at how much caffeine you consume in a day. Do you depend on this energy boost to function? If so, you may have an unhealthy dependency on caffeine. Discuss this with your doctor and see if reducing your caffeine intake is right for you. In healthy doses, caffeine can help you feel more productive and alert.

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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