Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline
Caffeine is surprisingly the most consumed drug in the world. From statistics, about 100 million Americans consume at least one cup of coffee per day and this is quite significant. Americans and people all around the world love their caffeine fix, be it from coffee or energy drinks and sodas and if they skip that regular cup of coffee or glass of soda that they usually take, experts warn that they might start to experience symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.

Neuropharmacologists call caffeine a drug that acts as a mild stimulant that blocks receptors in the brain that can dilate blood vessels causing headaches and other symptoms. It is possible to become dependent on caffeine after just a week or two of continued use. You shouldn’t be surprised if you start to feel the symptoms almost immediately after you quit. Caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones and adrenaline which give you that energy boost but, as you well know, this surge of energy doesn’t last very long and you eventually crash and seek out more caffeine afterward. Therein lies the problem as this continued dependence on caffeine wears down your adrenal glands.

Can caffeine withdrawal cause headaches?

Yes, you can get headaches from caffeine withdrawal. You might experience headaches 72 hours after your last caffeine intake. The painful sensation starts behind the eyes and moves to the front of your head and creates a very unpleasant experience.

What are the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal?

Common withdrawal symptoms of caffeine addiction include:

  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Concentration impairment
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
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When you do finally decide to quit caffeine, the withdrawal symptoms can start anywhere from 12 to 20 hours after your last cup of coffee and can peak at 2 days and will probably go on for as long as a week. It is recommended that you wean yourself off caffeine gradually by reducing the quantity you consume little by little. This makes it a bit easier to cope with withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms aren’t specific or constant and they vary from person to person depending on their physiology and quantity of caffeine they’ve been consuming. However, there are common symptoms that you can expect when you try to quit caffeine. Some of them include:

  1. Fatigue and Sleepiness

Little wonder this is a symptom of withdrawal. When your body is already dependent on caffeine and you need coffee or soda to give you that instant fix of energy it becomes difficult to be as active as you once were when you stop taking caffeine. You will experience lower energy levels physically and psychologically and this will tempt you to go back to caffeine. Typically this occurs within the first 24 to 36 hours after your last drink.

  1. Depression

When you quit caffeine, your serotonin levels will drop and this will have an immediate impact on your mood and consequently, depression sets in. The main issue is just the lack of caffeine and this depression is not linked to any real life happenings or conditions. This symptom also manifests between 24 to 36 hours after your last caffeine intake.

  1. Headaches

The headaches will start behind your eyes and then move to the front of your head making your day to day activities ever so terrible. This symptom is experienced around 72 hours after your last caffeine intake. At this point, you no longer crave the sweetness of the caffeine-containing drink or the energy fix but your body just reacts to the sheer absence of caffeine in your system.

  1. Irritability

It is probably a good idea to prepare everyone you come in daily contact with that you might be a little grumpy and you’re probably going to overreact to the little things that you normally wouldn’t react to. This irritability is often as a result of the body reacting to the absence of caffeine and it is amplified with the headaches you are probably already experiencing. This also is manifested between 48 to 72 hours after your last drink.

  1. Anxiety and Nervousness

It is possible to have actual physical manifestations of anxiety. Your chest starts to get a little bit tighter and your breathing might become a little more labored and difficult.

  1. Concentration Impairment

You will experience difficulty concentrating and your alertness levels will be on the decline at work and in school and this makes even the easiest tasks seem like the most difficult thing to do. This is the reason why coffee is so popular in colleges and workplaces where a high level of mental concentration is needed. Lapses in concentration show up almost immediately after caffeine intake has been interrupted.

  1. Muscle Pain and Stiffness

Aches and pains occur during the initial stages of withdrawal. If you normally use caffeine for your workouts, you might find that it is harder for you to lift the same amount of weight, to keep your energy levels up and to keep your endurances level as high as you would normally get.

  1. Flu-like Symptoms

It is also common to start to experience symptoms of flu such as stuffy nose, blocked sinuses, chills, hot flashes etc.

  1. Insomnia

Among the most common effects of caffeine withdrawal is insomnia. Some people cannot sleep through the process as their body is going through all these changes as a result of the absence of caffeine in the system. This is, ironically, as a result of the disruption of the sleep cycle due to the abuse of caffeine. Insomnia is a symptom that will probably be experienced late on in the withdrawal process.

  1. Constipation

It’s not a pretty affair. Caffeine stimulates the bowels and without it, your trips to the bathroom might start to get really uncomfortable.

According to research, tiredness, as measured by a visual analog scale is the most sensitive indicator of caffeine withdrawal. Headaches only become an issue after at least 24 hours of caffeine withdrawal and it was also confirmed that after longer term abstention, drowsiness and lethargy are transient caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

You probably didn’t know this but caffeine withdrawal following years of previous research has actually now been classified as an actual mental disorder and this is because caffeine is a drug and it needs to be treated as such. During the withdrawal process, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Decrease your intake gradually. Don’t go cold turkey at once.
  • Hydrate yourself properly.
  • Try decaffeinated alternatives.

How long does caffeine dependence take?

Caffeine dependence is developed in as short as one or two weeks of continued use. The symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are felt anywhere between 12 to 20 hours after quitting and can last for up to one week.

If you persist in your bid to quit caffeine, you will eventually cross the threshold where the withdrawal symptoms begin to fade until they are no longer there. This can take anywhere between two weeks to months depending on the method used to quit and the concentration of the initial caffeine intake.

Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

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Comments 28

  • Thanks a lot!
    Here in Germany i m not able to find any reliable informations about this topic. It is therefore important that american health sience report about it!

  • Thank you for this article. I have been off Caffeine for over a week now, and still having headaches, my body is aching at night especially. Only one night of insomnia so far. I have been very tempted to drink some green tea, just for the health benefits, and the smaller dose of caffeine. I really want to be caffeine free though. It is a rough road so far…for me.

  • Good info. I wondered why I was having such ‘sinus’ type headaches and a little breathing difficulty. I went off caffeine once before but don’t remember it being this bad. I went cold turkey 3 days ago for heart reasons and I still have some headaches. According to this article it can take 2 weeks to months to get over all the symptoms. Hopefully no more than 2 weeks but I have been drinking a lot of coffee, tea, cokes and love chocolate. So my system is loaded with caffeine. Oh well…..

  • I was rushed to the Hospital 5 days ago after experiencing palpitations two days in a row while riding my mountain bike. I have been a heavy Starbucks coffee consumer, and have been taking in close to 40 ounces a day. 2 Ventis a day, and additional shots of espresso from about 1998 not missing one day. Yah,. Not to mention all the sugar I ingested . Long story short the Doctors at the ER told me my caffeine intake was responsible for the Palpitations after many tests, blood work,and EKGs. I was scared, but at the same time knew I had to quit my coffee consumption.Well, here it is Day 4 with no caffeine, and I am alive.The last 3 days were terrible. Killer migraine headaches, sleepy, tiredness, irritability, confusion, etc. All of the classic withdrawal symptoms. The Headaches are getting better, I am eating well, and I actually feel very good right now after I rode my bike 3 miles. Back to a normal sleep patterns, and waking up early again. I was going to sleep at 4:00 am , and my biorhythms were off.I am grateful I was able to do it cold turkey too, and not suffer as bad as some people do. Ok, Good Luck to all, and my best wishes to those that want to quit. James

    • first safe level is 300 to 400 mg a day, some say 300 some 400.. meaning 2 drip cofffee mug medium strength , which i dont like nor use, I use mocka stove top expresso pot.. or 5 expresso, yes expresso is much less than avg drip mug of coffee which has 200 mg.. depending on the strength you make it.. but expresso being concentrate you feel it fast, but it is one third of the soupy drip cofffee mug of 200 ml.
      it is about r 7 to 8 cup of instant coffee, instant coffee tea spoon is 50 mg. Black tea has 30 mg per spoon which make a cup. Darjeeling which I love is 20 mg of caffeine a cup, which require one tea spoon to make ,and the lowest of tea is green tea. zero cock Idont drink but Pepsi Zero Sugar 20 oz. 115 mg!!! yes .. and many soft drink pepsi or cola are between 70 to 90.. I dont drink them anyway.. for info only.
      so my advice, first gradual if you estimate 500 gm of caffeine a day .. play with concentration of coffee, instead of 2 table spoon, use 1.7 for 2 days, then 1.5 for 2 or 3 days, then 1.2 for another 3 days.. then 1 spoon… if in the processs you see it watery, lower the water so it feel concentrated but less.. then if you drink say 5 or 6 assorted caffeine drink cocke coffee, etc… make it 5, then 3 days later 4.. then 3.. you will notice a very minor symptoms … very minor.. but dont rush , lower it only 10% to 15% less every three days to get adjusted to it.. in 10 days you will be drinking 200 mg or 250 which is very safe level… then you can lower it further if you want that, me no.. I Love it.. so I stay at 2 or 3 cup total, 2 coffee and 2 tea it comes to 300mg.. the way I do it.. i drink in small quantity of liquid so it is not soupy so taste great but in small cup.. good luck all from.

    • Thank you!!! Great information. Day three going on day four. I’m really glad to have a timeline available of how long this process is going to take. This way I know I will avoid disappointment with my progress. I know what is on the other side, I’ve been successful before and lived two great years caffeine free. One more time, my hope is to make this a lifetime commitment. good luck friends.

  • I was forced into caffeine detox after a bout with food poisoning almost 72 hours ago.
    The headache and eye pain were intense after 24 hours, but after 48 hours both have lightened up. Still present off & on but tolerable
    Thank you for the information & insight

  • I have been off coffee for 3 days and I am experiencing muscle and joint aches in my hips and legs.

  • It is week 1 – went cold turkey – probably a bad choice.

    It is so tempting to get back on the coffee – my limbs really hurt! Giving up alcohol seemed so much less painful – maybe I just forget once the goal of clearing the body from these drugs is achieved.

  • I stopped coffee 2 days ago and am experiencing headaches and insomnia. I am writing this at 3:30 am. Can’t sleep. I hope ithe headaches and insomnia pass quickly. I’m hoping I can hang in there and not go back to. Coffee. I did enjoy a cup or two each morning but I was experiencing heart palpitations so I decided to quit coffee. Hopefully I can do this.

  • Thank you for this article… I just completed a detox from my prescription medications to see if I still need them or not and that was very very tough. I have began my new life of eating organic and trying to remove and avoid all unnatural chemicals from my body.

    Caffeine is the last step and I have to say it is harder than I ever imagined. I have a very stressful and very demanding job. On an average day, I would have 5-7 shots of espresso to perform as required. I know I can do this though…reading your article certainly made me feel better. I am on track and since I am now experiencing almost all of the symptoms.

    I wish everyone out there well who is on the same journey to being drug-free!

    We can do this!
    Brooke

  • Day 3 on caffeine abstinence. I decided to go cold turkey as I can’t do otherwise. I love coffee to just drink 1 cup a day! Well know withdraw symptoms as reported by our fellow quitters here. One symptom that strikes me is pain in the lower limbs. Very intense and only subsides with painkillers. Looking forward to a life without coffee!

  • I am nearly three weeks coffee free and am still having intense bouts of sleepiness during the day. I wasn’t a heavy caffeine consumer, so I am wondering is this really still part of detoxing?!

  • Day 4 cold turkey. Triple shot in the morning was my reason for getting out of bed. Afternoon double shot. Aches and pains all over worse in legs and hips responds well to paracetamol. Thought it was difficult to give up nicotine but caffeine wins out hands down.

  • I have been drinking coffee since I’m 26 years old. I am now 71. I was drinking 18 cups a day . I went down to 12. I have almost every symptom there is. I am having a very hard time . I am anxiousness , I have headaches . I am always tired now and I want to have a cup of coffee like there is no tomorrow . I work as a hair stylist owning my shop and finding working 12 hours is hard without my coffee to get me thru. I had trouble with swollen ankles for years . I thought it was a heart issue . so my heart doctor thought so too. She put me on water pills and my ankles were still swollen. Now they are skinny. Forgot what my legs looked like. go figure . This is what doctors should ask the patients that have a heart specialist. They should ask how many cups of coffee do you drink a day and if they say 12 to 18 they have got to stop ! thanks for listening

    • You down to 12? I drink a 12 pack of soda and a coffee or two a day and just going down you can tell! I have anxiety and headache and that blah feeling, I hope we can get through this and remember to drink water and I actually think Gatorade helps… Steven

    • Eilee, hang in there. I’ve drunk coffee since I was 12. I am now 61. Three weeks ago, I quit cold turkey. I would drink about 10 to 15 cups of very strong coffee/day. I wouldn’t say that my energy level is up to where it should be, but I don’t have headaches or lethargy any longer. I do sleep better. My stress level is much lower. I work 12 hour days as well. It helps to go for a short walk each hour. Blessings on your journey 🙂

  • I’m in the minor leagues compared to many above; I found that my Coke Zero intake had escalated to five or six cans a day, and decided just to stop for many, many reasons unrelated to the caffeine intake. At only at most 204mg/day, I didn’t think that was the headline problem — it’s still well below ‘safe’ consumption levels, no matter how conservative an estimate you look for. Not much more than two cups of coffee.

    Yet, come day three of cold turkey and the headache was astounding. I don’t normally have headaches, so that was a surprise. It was strong for around 18 hours, accompanied by muscle pain primarily in my legs and lower back that peaked around the midpoint of the headache.

    This is day four, now about thirty-six hours since the headache arrived, and it’s mostly gone. My muscles now feel merely strained, not actually constantly uncomfortable.

    All in, it’s felt a lot like having a flu without the cold-like symptoms.

    So, getting to my point: if you’re a proper caffeine drinker, consuming four or six or more cups of coffee a day, I would absolutely advise **against** going cold turkey.

    I’ve had probably the most minor of potential withdrawals, during which I wasn’t expecting any side effects at all because of the small quantity of my intake, and it’s been quite uncomfortable. Had I been trying to cut down to the extent of other posters here, I think I might have had a very tough time indeed.

  • its been almost a month going cold Turkey and I am very depressed and getting back on regular hours has made me less productive. So I am getting less done with double the sleep. I am hoping things will change….wish i had my old energy back.

  • It’s been one week without any coffee and I’ve been feeling dizzy, lightheaded, constipated and waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety and some panic attacks. I’m one of the guys that preferred drinking coffee all day over water. And I’m getting my punishment, hope you guys don’t have to go through this. I’ll post an update in some weeks if I can remember haha

  • This information has helped me understand my symptoms, and has given me hope to hang in there. I thought it was no big deal at first since I was only drinking a 1/2 cup a day, and I would only drink one particular coffee (French Vanilla Cappuccino from Tim Horton’s). That’s it, nothing else. I didn’t think it was a big deal since it was out of a machine just like hot chocolate. Believe it or not, I’ve only been drinking this stuff for about 6 years. Before then, I never drank coffee at all….only tea (go figure!).

    My first experience with withdrawal was when I went on vacation, and realized there was no Tim Horton’s in China. It was a horrible experience, and I had no idea what was going on. Needless to say, I started purchasing cans of instant French Vanilla Cappuccino sold at Tim Horton’s. It was like the American Express commercial said, “don’t leave home with it.” Well, I never traveled without it.

    Then my husband started to get irritated, because every time I’d try to quit, it was really bad. My withdrawal symptoms were a lot like everyone described. It made him nervous and he couldn’t understand what I was going through because he’s never drank coffee, or taken any drugs in his life. He said to me, “anything that has that much control over you, you need to let go.” So I’ve been trying, if not for that reason alone. Since several attempts to kick the habit, the longest I’ve ever gone was 6 months. My downfall always happens in the winter when I have a craving for something warm to drink. I’m going to take a week off work, and go cold turkey to try and kick the habit again. I’d probably loose my job if I tried to work during the process because I can get pretty outspoken when I’m irritated. So I’d rather not take that chance. Good luck to all of you! Thanks for listening, and thanks for sharing your stories.

  • I quit cigarettes and sodas cold turkey about a month ago… I wouldn’t do nothing everyday but drink 5-6 sodas everyday and smoke a pack of cigarette everyday literally no water intake no nothing and I’m a month in on both withdrawals and I feel like hell still!!! Any tips please??

  • Gyeah headaches bearable . If this is what my caffeine mistress has being doing to me I’m done with her. Hang in there, drink water and cut the sugars next. Well worth the pain.

  • I would say it is 5-6 weeks since my last cup of coffee or tea. I have also cut back on chocolate although not entirely… Headaches are still constant, ranging from a slight tingle to heavy buzz, not particularly painful but i’m getting pretty sick of it!

  • Thank you for this information. I have high blood pressure, so l have to get away from the caffeine. I have one Pepsi left. After it’s gone, I will be going Cold turkey. I’ve been without caffeine before, so I know what to expect from the absence. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it. But, for my health, I have no choice. At least now I know how long it’s going to be. (Or some sort of timeline anyway.)

  • I was only on 50 mg of caffeine so really low amount. I have decided to get off its 4 days no caffeine, I may go down to 25 mg then 15 then 5mg then off it’s seems better that way. Not sure

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