The duration of caffeine withdrawalsymptoms vary from person to person, but caffeine withdrawal usually lasts at least two to nine days.
Someone who abruptly stops caffeine intake after regular use will usually feel withdrawal effects between 12 and 24 hours after stopping. The peak of withdrawal effects usually occurs between 24 and 51 hours in.
If you regularly consume caffeine, caffeine withdrawal will likely affect you at some point. The more caffeine you drink, generally the worse the withdrawal experience is.
Surprisingly, habitual consumption of even just one small cup of coffee per day can produce withdrawal symptoms.
Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant that decreases drowsiness by blocking adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter connected to the body’s sleep-wake processes. By blocking the receptors, caffeine can allow a person to experience a temporary, improved feeling of wakefulness.
Caffeine also boosts other hormones and neurotransmitters like adrenaline and dopamine, as well as constricts blood flow to the brain.
The withdrawal symptoms happen as the brain works to adjust to functioning without caffeine. Fortunately, caffeine withdrawal does not last very long and the symptoms are considered to be relatively mild.
One 2014 study identified genes that affect a person’s response to caffeine metabolism. Researchers can use these genetic markers to predict the likelihood that someone is a heavy coffee user. This suggests that your coffee cravings may just be genetic!
The more caffeine consumed daily, the more intense the withdrawal symptoms tend to be. Symptom duration varies but might end between two and nine days.
Common caffeine withdrawal symptoms can include:
- cognitive effects
- mood changes
Headaches are often associated with caffeine withdrawal. Headaches happen because caffeine constricts your brain’s blood vessels. This constriction slows cerebral blood flow. When you cease your caffeine consumption, the once constricted blood vessels expand.
After you stop using caffeine, blood flow to the brain increases. Headaches are from the brain adjusting to the increase in blood flow. Once the brain has adapted, the withdrawal headaches will stop. Duration and severity of the withdrawal headaches will vary.
Fatigue is another dreaded symptom of caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine improves energy and reduces drowsiness by blocking adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that can cause fatigue in some circumstances. Once caffeine is eliminated, many people feel tired and fatigued.
While fatigue can be frustrating, allowing your brain’s neurotransmitters to stabilize should lead to more sustainable energy. Caffeine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted through urine. Tolerance increases with use. This can lead to frequent use and dependency, and therefore a worsening of withdrawal symptoms.
Negative cognitive and emotional effects can also be a consequence of caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine stimulates the release of hormones adrenaline, cortisol, and epinephrine. Caffeine also increases the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine.
If you have developed a mental and physiological dependence on caffeine, you can experience feelings of anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and a depressed mood. This should only occur while your body is adjusting to the lack of its usual source of stimuli.
If you decide you want to decrease or quit caffeine, try these things to work through your withdrawal symptoms:
- Taper consumptioninstead of going cold turkey. If you are used to drinking coffee, try half-decaf half-regular and gradually wean yourself off.
- Avoid sources of caffeine.Make sure you are not accidentally reintroducing caffeine. Check labels on packaged sodas, tonics, and teas, even packaged food.
- Hydrate.Dehydration can make withdrawal symptoms worse.
- Take a pain reliever.Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin to help with any withdrawal headaches.
- Get plenty of sleep.You will probably feel tired when you stop consuming caffeine, so help combat this by getting at least seven to nine hours a night.
- Boost energy in other ways.Try these tips to boost energy naturally.
Those who over-consume caffeine at toxic levels can display features of caffeine intoxication (also referred to “caffeinism”). Symptoms of this form of intoxication can include:
- gastrointestinal disturbances
- psychomotor agitation
Benefits of caffeine may include:
- increased metabolism
- lowered risk of neurodegenerative diseases
- protection against heart disease
- liver protection
- reduced risk of hypertension
- improved asthma control
Much of the data collected on caffeine is observational in nature. There have been few randomized, controlled studies.
In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged that for healthy adults, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine in a day, or up to about four cups of coffee, was not associated with dangerous effects.
A 2017 review of studies reported that up to 300 milligrams of caffeine (about three cups) per day is safe for pregnant women.
Remember, even one cup of coffee daily can cause withdrawal symptoms. It’s also important to note that a cup is 8 ounces, and many mugs and to-go cups hold up to 16 ounces or more.
Also, keep in mind caffeine tolerance and the body’s response is slightly different for each person. It’s never a bad idea to discuss caffeine consumption with your doctor.
Check out our chart about the effects of caffeine to learn even more about caffeine and how it affects the body.
Caffeine is thought to be the most frequently used psychoactive substance in the world. In the United States, it’s the second most consumed beverage after water.
Caffeine functions as a central nervous system stimulant and even a small amount used daily can cause withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can result in caffeine dependency.
The severity and duration of caffeine withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, and your genetic makeup can play a part in how much coffee you consume.