Caffeine, a stimulant, might be the world's most commonly used mind-altering substance. Although most of us don't think of it as being a drug, it actually fits the definition perfectly! Like any other drug, quitting caffeine can lead to withdrawal.
Luckily, there are many proven methods to endure caffeine withdrawal, even if you can't avoid it completely. To minimize your symptoms and keep those headaches at bay:
- Don't start drinking too much caffeine! The best way to avoid caffeine withdrawal entirely is not to get hooked on it in the first place! If you want to drink coffee, tea, or soda, it is almost always possible to find a caffeine-free or decaffeinated version.
- Avoid caffeine pills. Caffeine pills contain more caffeine than most people think -- about 200 mg. That is the same amount as two cups of coffee, in a little pill. It is easy to get hooked on caffeine pills because often you don't realize how much caffeine you are ingesting.
- Know the risks of quitting caffeine cold turkey. Many people choose to stop their caffeine consumption all at once, and feel that they need to do it this way. If this is you, just be aware that you will definitely have to endure caffeine withdrawal. Stopping your intake of caffeine all at once makes the levels of the stimulant in your body drop drastically and suddenly, causing the worst possible withdrawal symptoms.
- Try the gradual approach. Replace your caffeinated beverages slowly with more and more non-caffeinated ones. Start by using 3/4 regular coffee to 1/4 decaf, then slowly decrease the caffeinated portion and increase the decaffeinated portion. The same can be done with tea and sodas -- just make sure you are decreasing the level of the caffeinated portion and increasing the caffeine-free portion. Doing this slowly but surely should help you endure caffeine withdrawal more easily.
- Treat the caffeine withdrawal headaches. Ignoring the headaches, which are a major symptom of caffeine withdrawal, will just make you more tempted to go back to the full-caffeine routine. Instead, use pain relievers. Just be aware that some pain relievers, such as Excedrin, contain caffeine, so include that when figuring out your daily caffeine intake! Going off of caffeine gradually can help the caffeine withdrawal headaches be a little more bearable.caffeine withdrawal
- Be aware that you will be tired! Of course you will be tired -- caffeine is a stimulant and you're trying to endure caffeine withdrawal! Give yourself extra grace and extra time to deal with the fact that you will probably take longer to do things, have trouble concentrating, and not be as alert as normal. Don't worry, this too will pass.
- Warn people that you might be grouchy. It's likely that your family, friends, and colleagues will notice that you are more irritable or depressed than normal. The easiest way to deal with this is to let them know that you are trying to kick the caffeine habit. That way, you have accountability, and they may forgive any irritability that comes from trying to endure caffeine withdrawal.
- Try small amounts of caffeine when the withdrawal symptoms are too severe. The tricky thing about this is that you have to be able to control your caffeine intake. If you're going to end up drinking an entire pot of coffee or 2 liters of soda, you should avoid this step.
- Try to keep a regular routine. Although you might be replacing your caffeine intake with decaf beverages slowly, it's still a good idea to try to have your beverages at the same time every day. You're already messing with your body and forcing it to endure caffeine withdrawal -- don't make it more difficult than necessary!
- Be aware the caffeine withdrawal will eventually end! Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal -- including headache, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and flu-like symptoms -- start around 12 to 24 hours after you stop drinking caffeinated beverages. They get worse over the next couple of days, and can last up to 9 days after you stop drinking caffeine entirely. The more caffeine you drink, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms. But everyone will eventually get over it.
Quitting caffeine can be difficult, just like stopping any addiction. Be patient with yourself and stock up on delicious non-caffeinated beverages, as well as painkillers, to get yourself through the caffeine withdrawal.