Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline
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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. One shouldn’t be surprised if the symptoms start manifesting almost immediately after quitting. Caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones and adrenaline, which give one that energy boost but this surge of energy doesn’t last very long, and a person eventually crash and seek out more caffeine afterward. Therein lies the problem as this continued dependence on caffeine wears down the adrenal glands.
Table of Contents
Signs Of Caffeine Withdrawal
Common withdrawal symptoms of caffeine addiction include:
- Fatigue and sleepiness
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Concentration impairment
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Flu-like symptoms
When one does finally decide to quit caffeine, the withdrawal symptoms can start anywhere from 12 to 20 hours after the 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 a person weans oneself off caffeine gradually by reducing the quantity consumed 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 one can expect when tries to quit caffeine. Some of them include:
Fatigue and Sleepiness
Little wonder this is a symptom of withdrawal. When the body is already dependent on caffeine, and a person needs coffee or soda to give that instant fix of energy, it becomes difficult to be as active as before stopping. One will experience lower energy levels physically and psychologically, and this will tempt a person to go back to caffeine. Typically this occurs within the first 24 to 36 hours after the last drink.
When one quits caffeine, serotonin levels will drop, and this will have an immediate impact on the 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 the last caffeine intake.
The headaches will start behind the eyes and then move to the front of the head, making the day to day activities ever so terrible. This symptom is experienced around 72 hours after the last caffeine intake. At this point, one no longer craves the sweetness of the caffeine-containing drink or the energy fix but the body just reacts to the sheer absence of caffeine in the system.
It is probably a good idea to prepare everyone one comes in daily contact with to a little grumpy mood and probably an overreaction to the little things that normally wouldn’t be so. This irritability is often as a result of the body reacting to the absence of caffeine, and it is amplified with the headaches. This also is manifested between 48 to 72 hours after the last drink.
Anxiety and Nervousness
It is possible to have actual physical manifestations of anxiety. The chest starts to get a little bit tighter, and the breathing might become a little more labored and difficult.
One will experience difficulty concentrating, and the 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.
Muscle Pain and Stiffness
Aches and pains occur during the initial stages of withdrawal. If one normally use caffeine for the workouts, they might find that it is harder to lift the same amount of weight, to keep the energy levels up and to keep the endurances level as high under normal conditions.
It is also common to start to experience symptoms of flu such as stuffy nose, blocked sinuses, chills, hot flashes etc.
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.
It’s not a pretty affair. Caffeine stimulates the bowels, and without it, the 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.
One probably didn’t know this but caffeine withdrawal following years of previous research has 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 intake gradually. Don’t go cold turkey at once.
- Hydrate oneself properly.
- Try decaffeinated alternatives.
How Long Does Caffeine Withdrawal Last?
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 a person persists in one’s bid to quit caffeine, one 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.
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