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Caffeine Withdrawal and Safely "Quitting"

Whenever the American Psychiatric Association updates the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), its changes are sure to raise some eyebrows. The DSM-V was no exception; many of its changes raised eyebrows, few moreso than its suggestion that caffeine addiction and withdrawal were diagnosable mental disorders.
It's not easy putting the brakes on your coffee habit.
The controversy is an understandable one; after all, nobody likes to be told that their casual coffee habit is a mental disorder. It's worth noting, however, that while caffeine has health benefits, it is also physiologically and psychologically addictive. As with any other addictive substance, not everyone takes to caffeine in quite the same way. Some people are able to indulge in moderation, while for others, the same caveat applies to caffeiene as coffee: "One's too many, ten's not enough." People might decide to "quit" coffee, or caffeine more generally, for any number of reasons. For some, it's a matter of ditching a caffeine addiction. For others, there can be compelling medical reasons (such as pregnancy, heart problems, anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, or interactions with medication) to consider. For still others, there can even be a religious or spiritual dimension (such as giving up coffee for Lent). Because caffeine can act much the same as nicotine, it's vital to be careful about how you go about quitting. The reason for that is that caffeine withdrawal brings with it symptoms that range from unpleasant to downright nasty, typically within 24 hours of interrupting or decreasing caffeine intake. These include:
  • Headache
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Impaired concentration
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Muscle aches and stiffness
Going "cold turkey" typically leads to multiple symptoms at once, which lessen in severity within 24 hours and will generally clear up within a week. Even cutting back on consumption gradually can come with its share of challenges. Therefore, if you're planning on a caffeiene detox, it can be helpful to consult with a physician, who can make suggestions to ease the transition to a caffeine-free life. If you're looking to simply cut back, stagger your consumption at irregular intervals, and try to keep your consumption at about 100mg of caffeine a day. Be aware of the sources of caffeine. After all, coffee is far from the only culprit. Tea, soda, and energy drinks are obvious culprits. It can be easy to forget that chocolate contains it. What complicates things is the fact that many other things have caffeine added, including many over the counter painkillers, Perky Jerky (a caffeinated beef jerky), and some sport drinks (which add a small caffeine jolt to the customary cocktail of fluids and electrolytes). As a coffee company, we love our caffiene. And if you're reading this, there's a good chance that you love it, too. But if you've reached a point where, whether out of desire or necessity, it's time to cut back or cut out the caffeine, hopefully the advice contained here makes the process a bit easier to bear.

Further reading:

Time Magazine: Caffeine Withdrawal is Now a Mental Disorder The Wall Street Journal: A Coffee Withdrawal Diagnosis