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Caffeine Addiction Side Effects and Withdrawal

caffeine can be found in coffee, energy drinks, and weight loss supplementsWhile caffeine is commonly found in a variety of our most popular food and drinks, including coffee, soft drinks, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate, that doesn’t necessarily mean that consuming too much of it on a regular basis is good for your health.

As more scientists continue to study the properties and effects of regular caffeine use, especially on children, many are coming up with startling conclusions. After extensively studying the effects of prolonged caffeine use on the human body, some researchers have found that caffeine is actually the world’s most popular psychoactive drug.

A 2010 paper in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners states that caffeine use meets all the requirements to be classified as an addictive substance, including an increased tolerance and dependence, in addition to inducing powerful withdrawal symptoms when people stop ingesting it.

Things That Contain Caffeine

  • Coffee – 100 mg per cup
  • Tea – 14 mg to 60 mg per cup
  • Chocolate – 45 mg in 1.5 oz. bar
  • Most colas – 45 mg in 12 oz. drink
  • Candies, snacks, gum – 40 – 100 mg per serving
  • Aspirin – 40mg to 65mg
  • Energy drinks – from 215 to 570mg

Most Experts Agree More Than 4 cups of Coffee is Too Much

Contrary studies refute the addiction claim, including a 2006 review in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse that denies a link between caffeine and addiction, pointing out that “caffeine addicts” rarely have the same uncontainable compulsion to use caffeine, that is seen in the use of other drugs like heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines.

However, as more research continues to be done on caffeine addiction, there is ever growing consensus that caffeine does in fact have all the characteristics of a drug, and prolonged use can have detrimental effects on the health of the body and mind.

Caffeine is Hard to Get Away From

There is caffeine in more than just coffee and tea. Caffeine can be found in various foods and drugs and a typical aspirin has 65 mg of caffeine in it. No wonder people crave chocolate, it has a lot of caffeine in it.

Here is a copy of the FDA “Caffeine Intake by The U.S. Population” Report 2012, Caffeine Consumption Report.

Caffeine Addiction Symptoms

Many people don’t realize it, but caffeine can significantly alter a person’s mood, behavior, focus, and overall mental state. If someone who normally consumes caffeine products on a day-to-day basis suddenly goes 2 to 3 days without having any caffeine, they can experience what is known as caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

However, because caffeine doesn’t come with a lot of the same serious health and adverse social consequences associated with our typical view of drugs and addiction, many people are hesitant to view caffeine as a drug and consume it without hesitation. Too much caffeine consumption can actually be detrimental to a person’s health and mental state. Symptoms of a Caffeine Addiction include:

  • Chronic Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Sluggishness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Depressed mood
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Caffeine Withdrawal and Dependence

Caffeine Withdrawal and Dependence

Many avid caffeine users are shocked to learn that abruptly stopping caffeine use after long periods of consuming it can actually lead to mild withdrawal symptoms, not unlike many long term alcohol and drug users experience when they abruptly stop using. This is because caffeine can actually interact with several metabolic functions in the body and change its makeup to where the initial rush from caffeine is no longer felt and the body needs more and more to compensate.

Much like the use of many illegal street drugs, users can build up a tolerance to caffeine over time, and even in some cases, can develop a dependency.

While caffeine withdrawal symptoms are nowhere near as serious as alcohol and opiate withdrawal syndrome, it can still cause a variety of painful and annoying symptoms that can disrupt your life for a day or two. These can include:

  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of energy
  • Insomnia
  • Increased irritability
  • Mild depression
  • Lack of concentration
  • Memory Loss

Side Effects of Caffeine

Drinking too much coffee, or other sources of caffeine can lead to:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Urinating more often
  • Vomiting

Coping With a Caffeine Problem

Whether you wish to entirely give up caffeine, or just significantly cut down on it as part of a healthier diet, the first things suggested include:

  1. Keep track of exactly how much caffeine you’re putting into your body each day
  2. Go slowly, as going “cold turkey” might cause several annoying, and even painful withdrawal symptoms
  3. Consider replacing morning or afternoon coffee with another drink altogether like non-caffeinated coffee, tea, or a fruit smoothie of some kind

Black tea is one of the best alternatives to coffee because it has significantly less caffeine, if any at all, and it can replace the morning or afternoon coffee ritual, which can be very important to avid coffee drinkers.

However, if you love your morning coffee too much to give it up altogether, consider cutting other caffeinated drinks out of your diet like sugary drinks and caffeinated sodas. It is also important to drink lots of water to flush out the body to stay hydrated during the caffeine detox phase.

For those suffering from a chronic caffeine addiction, think about getting professional help. While it might sound silly seeking professional addiction counseling for a caffeine addiction, it actually makes perfect sense. A caffeine addiction is not altogether dissimilar to a chronic drug or alcohol addiction in the way the body reacts with these substances and creates an emotional and physical dependence. A professional drug counselor can help identify the underlying causes for your addiction and help taper off gradually.

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