Beware the perils of caffeine withdrawal

I may have discovered the culprit for yesterday’s horrible relapse…..caffeine withdrawal. For some reason I thought I’d go off coffee cold turkey to help get over this illness. Turns out, that was probably a bad idea. By last night I was nauseous, light-headed, deeply fatigued and my head was pounding with a killer headache. It probably also explains my irritability yesterday.

My coffee intake has been gradually increasing over the last month to the point I was drinking three or four cups of strong coffee most days. Yes I know coffee in that quantity is not good for me, but I guess that’s how most bad habits start; They just creep up on you slowly until they get a bit out of control.

So after a bit of research this morning I discover I am among the estimated 80 to 90 percent of North American adults and children who consume caffeine products every day. Apparently about half that number will experience headaches and other symptoms from caffeine withdrawal syndrome. According to experts, withdrawal symptoms can start from 12 to 20 hours after your last cup of coffee and peak about two days later and can last about as long as a week. Ick! I’m not putting up with that for a week!

I’ve decided to forgo the cold-turkey approach to caffeine withdrawal. I am now going to sensibly wean myself off coffee over the next couple of weeks. Apparently it’s best to reduce caffeine consumption by a half to a whole cup per day.

It makes sense for me to reduce my dependency on coffee. After all, I’m trying to reduce my dependency on cheap oil and fiat money so I had better add caffeine to that list. Anyone else managed to kick the habit? Did you suffer these types of withdrawal symptoms?

Photo by : pfv


  1. I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker, though I always liked the aroma! But, once when I was working in a crappy job, I turned to coffee to keep me going, and probably so I’d have a good excuse to get out of the office, to go buy it for everyone! I only noticed how bad it was when I was then getting bad headaches if I’d not managed to get out and get a cup by mid-morning. Luckily, I ditched the job and weaned off coffee too….

    Good luck weaning off… you know they say one cup of good, Fair Trade organic coffee a day is good for your system… well, that’s the theory I’m using!

  2. Like dixiebelle, I have never been a drinker of coffee. I love the smell though (too). I drink more tea now than I used to, but thankfully not too much and I can take it or leave it.

    It’s quite confronting to discover that you are dependent on something for your day to day well-being.

  3. Caffeine withdrawl is a bitch. I don’t drink coffee, love the smell but hate the taste. My downfall is Pepsi Max, now that is evil stuff. Every once in awhile I’ll go cold turkey and man do I suffer. Sadly, I eventually end up back on the stuff. I’d like to think I can wean myself off it but sadly I’m lacking in will power. I’ve been wanting to get off the stuff for the last couple of months but keep finding excuses not to 🙂

    I might give it another try in moral support to you. Who am I kidding, it’ll be the other way around.

    1. I accidently came across this when i googled pepsimax withdrawals… i have been feeling like hell the last few days and i was putting it down to cronic fatigue and was going to see a dr on monday for these symptoms, but then i thought omg, i havent had pepsi for a few days…. maybe that might have something to do with it, so while drinking a glass of pepsimax i googled… meanwhile headache subsiding, and came across these comments… i am a little worried that pepsimax can make me feel sooo horrible, fatigued, headaches, sick and depressed, simply from not drinking it!!!! Might need to look into this further i think!

  4. Hey Mia,

    I love coffee, but I have to take coffee holidays every now and again because I start to react to it. Also, I don’t really want to be stuck with a coffee addiction and I see coffee as a luxury to be enjoyed in moderate quantities. For me it’s a special indulgence. I recognise it as a precious item that should be consumed with consciousness and in recognition of the fact that it is a *strong* drug and has environmental and social justice impacts depending on the what and hows of one’s coffee consumption.

    All this to stay, I don’t take my coffee consumption lightly, purchase and drink it with intention and control my withdrawal symptoms carefully.

    Weaning off slowly is definitely a good idea! Using less coffee per cup, adding in more milk if you use it, are good places to start. I often mix my coffee with ground chicory root, slowing increasing the amount of chicory until there is more chicory than coffee. (This year I plan to grow, harvest, roast and grind both chicory and dandelion roots which are old, old substitutes for coffee.)

    I also find it helpful to keep a bit of caffeine in my system to avoid the headaches. Green or black tea is my choice here. I suppose caffeinated pops could work, but I don’t drink those, and I feel like the sugar would add a whole new set of issues. Drink lots of water!

    Once I’m off the caffeine altogether, I switch to herbal teas. Stinging nettle and rosemary are mildly stimulating and are my morning choices (made as separate teas, not combos). Any of the mints have some zip to them too. None of these give the jittery, jerky buzz of coffee of course, but they are refreshing and enlivening and don’t leave me feeling wigged out and shaky the way coffee sometimes does.

    Good luck!

  5. Thanks everyone for the moral support 🙂
    @Nevyn: Good Luck with the Pepsi Max withdrawal. I never really got into soft drinks (sodas) so that’s one less thing I have to give up!
    @Amber. Thanks for the fantastic information. I’m now slowly weaning myself off coffee and will replace it with herbal teas eventually. In the meantime, I might go and see if I can find some chicory. I now remember that one of my bosses a few years back switched to chicory after he had some heart problems. I’d forgotten about that until you mentioned it.

  6. I drink Pero. It’s a coffee substitute. The flavor and taste, sort of, but without the caffeine and tannin. So if you love coffee, like me, just look for the healthier substitutes to use on a regular basis. Postum was the best, but it’s sadly been discontinued, and I find Pero to be the best. There are alternatives! Haha!

    If you were drinking it for mostly energy however, I suggest a couple other things.

    Chocolate; endorphin buzz and a little caffeine. I love Snickers.

    Berries. Any kind of berry is a great natural resource of energy. I tend to have a 1/2 cup for an afternoon snack daily. Great thing, you can mix ’em up.

    Replace all those cups of coffee with water.

    All the best! =)

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