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.