Dreaded Caffeine Withdrawal

We’ve all heard that caffeine is addictive and that, if you use it regularly and then stop using it, you will experience the pains and discomfort of drug withdrawal.

Dr. Peter B. Dews, Professor Emeritus of Harvard University, the dean of United States caffeine scientists and researchers, told Bennett that stories about caffeine withdrawal greatly exaggerate the problems and discomfort experienced by people giving up the drug.  Most people, Dews said, do not feel any noticeable discomfort when they stop using caffeine.  And most of those who do feel discomfort from stopping caffeine experience only the mildest symtoms, such as a few mild headaches.  A smaller minority, however,  feel depression, irritability, anxiety, aches and pains, and other uncomfortable but not dangerous symtoms.   In any case, all of these withdrawal symptoms subside completely within a few days.

Everyone is different with respect to this question.  Bennett experiences no discomfort at all when he stops using caffeine suddenly.  Bonnie feels pretty uncomfortable, experiencing bad headaches and mood disturbances for a couple days.

If stopping caffeine suddenly causes problems for you, don’t stop using it suddenly!  The way to avoid withdrawal problems is simply to taper off your caffeine use over a period of several days.  If you do this, you avoid withdrawal symtoms pretty much completely.

A complete guideline for how you can minimize withdrawal difficulties is found in Bennett and Bonnie’s book The Caffeine Advantage.

And, by the way, most scientists and physicians deny that caffeine should be called “addictive.”  Caffeine creates a metabolic dependance and therefore could be described as “habit forming.”  However, many, many drugs create a metabolic dependance that should not be dubbed “addictive.”  An addictive drug, say the professionals who work in addiction therapy, is a drug like heroin or cocaine that seriously hurts or impairs you but which you are powerless to stop using.  No one ever lost his wife, his house, or his job because he couldn’t stop using caffeine.

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5 Responses to Dreaded Caffeine Withdrawal

  1. Joe says:

    I experience some mild withdrawal symptoms when I stop caffeine… Since reading the book, I’ve been experimenting with 100-150mg of caffeine (in pill form) before exercising in the morning. It gives me a tremendous boost to work out harder and longer… For the first time in years I actually look forward to jumping out of bed in the morning and going for a run or lifting some weights. I have suffered from quite severe depression – so this is huge for me!

    On days when I don’t work out, I don’t use any caffeine… So I do feel a bit groggy/tired with a mild headache – nothing major considering how I used to feel when my depression was at it’s worst. (and if it does get bad, I just take an asprin – apparently asprin has numerous health benefits too when taken in moderation – so I’m ok with this regime)

    The way I look at it is quite simple, I feel great when I take caffeine. I can train harder and recover quicker and it elevates my mood all day – even though I only take one dose at 6am. The improvements in my fitness and health have contributed to making me a happier person. So I can handle one or two days of feeling a bit tired or having a mild headache now and then if it means I feel great most other days.

    But that’s just my view, as depression made me feel like crap practically every day before I read the book and started using caffeine… So I guess that can give you a different perspective.

    • A great success story with caffeine! I am happy to learn how caffeine helps improve your mood all day and how much it helps your athletic activities. Your story is actually typical of what people find who take caffeine. What I’m not sure I understand is why you think you should skip a couple days each week and not use any caffeine on those days. There is no reason that I know of to do this. Any way, best of luck to you and please stay in touch!

  2. jcjc777 says:

    You have to be kidding. Look at the 200+ pages of comments from people trying to withdraw on http://coffeefaq.com/site/node/11

    • As I say in our post, a minority of people do experience caffeine withdrawal. In a country of over 300,000,000 people, it’s not surprising that a couple hundred should post comments saying they experience it. I was only reporting the findings of the best scientists in this area. For example, Peter Dews, a University Professor at Harvard, was the scientist who first explained the place of the withdrawal syndrome to me.

  3. Jimmy Hudson says:

    I haven’t experienced any withdrawal after missing the ocasional morning cups.