Deciding to stop drinking coffee or thinking about it? Withdrawing from coffee can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, but is coffee even a drug and when am I addicted to caffeine? In this post, you'll learn all about caffeine addiction and find the answer to the question, "Am I addicted to caffeine?“.
Is caffeine addiction an addiction?
Billions of people around the world drink caffeinated beverages on a regular basis. Whether it's coffee, green tea, or an energy drink, they all contain caffeine. This makes caffeine one of the most common mood altering substances in the world. People have loved the energy, alertness and concentration that coffee gives in the morning for centuries. For many, it's a stimulant and a loyal tradition, a morning ritual that follows them through life.
But can coffee really be an addiction when it's so common? Below, we look at the scientific definition of an addiction.
What is the definition of an addiction?
Medical professionals typically recognize six signs of addiction to a mood-altering
substance. When at least three of these signs occur simultaneously, it is a clear sign of addiction. Here we present the six signs below.
You crave caffeine in the morning, for example, and have a strong, sometimes irresistible, desire to consume it.
2. loss of control
You have problems controlling the time and duration of consumption, e.g. you need your coffee in the morning - no matter what is going on.
3. withdrawal symptoms
If you haven't had e.g. coffee in the morning, you get psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms such as listlessness and fatigue.
4. development of tolerance
While in the beginning one cup of coffee a day was enough, by now you have reached 6 cups to achieve the same effect.
5. neglect of tasks
Caffeine acquisition and consumption rule your life. Do you plan your trips along the nearest Starbucks?
6. consumption despite negative consequences
Even if you get heart palpitations and other side effects from coffee, you persist in consumption and fail to stop. This consumption despite negative consequences is another clear sign.
How dangerous is a caffeine addiction?
You may have found that several of these characteristics apply to you. That means you may be addicted to caffeine, but how dangerous is caffeine addiction anyway?
Don't worry, fortunately, caffeine addiction is labeled and considered a so-called "harmless" addiction. This is due to the following arguments:
- Caffeine withdrawal is very short-lived compared to other drugs
- Caffeine addiction does not destroy life and does not kill
- The consumption of caffeine in liquid form, dissolved in coffee and tea, has a long history of safe consumption
- The consumption of caffeine is culturally and socially accepted
So why would anyone ever want to get away from caffeine and caffeinated beverages if it's a socially accepted vice? Caffeine doesn't just have downsides, below we have outlined the benefits and downsides of caffeine.
What are the benefits of caffeine?
Caffeine makes you feel fit and alert in the morning and evening. Caffeine does this by increasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, which makes you alert and fit. Dopamine increases concentration and memory, which means that you can learn better or, in other words, function better.
In addition, caffeine can also help against diseases, diabetes and Alzheimer's are just two examples.
If caffeine has so many benefits, the question is whether the benefits easily outweigh the disadvantages and side effects.
What are the disadvantages of caffeine?
We almost all know it: having another coffee in the evening and then it gets difficult to sleep sometimes. Caffeine keeps us awake at night - intentionally or unintentionally. This is associated with a rise in stress hormones. The rise in cortisol and epinephrine in the blood makes you feel more alert, but also more stressed, anxious and easily irritable.
In addition to the stress hormones, you may experience palpitations and heart palpitations. If there have also been previous symptoms of anxiety and attacks of panic, these will be exacerbated by caffeine.
Caffeine not only negatively affects the cardiovascular system, but also digestion. Indigestion and heartburn are often associated with overconsumption of coffee.
Caffeine also hits neuronally. It affects neurotransmitters like dopamine, adrenaline, and many others. Anxiety and insomnia are the result of the inhibition of neurotransmitters like GABA, which have a calming effect.
The neural influences have consequences ranging from insomnia, to an overactive libido, to self-destructive behaviors. It is now scientifically proven that caffeine is more addictive than previously
thought. Even abstaining from caffeine for 12-24 hours usually leads to severe withdrawal symptoms.
As you can see, caffeine is more dangerous than you might think at first. A logical consequence can be a caffeine withdrawal.
How does caffeine withdrawal work?
Here we show you how caffeine withdrawal finally works. For this, we'll take a closer look at caffeine withdrawal to better understand it.
Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal
Many people show different kinds of symptoms. Starting with a general feeling of malaise to severe flu symptoms.
One of the most common symptoms is the so-called "caffeine withdrawal headache", which affects over 50% of all people who stop consuming caffeine. Even a slight decrease in caffeine withdrawal is enough to trigger side effects. The most common side effects of caffeine withdrawal are fatigue (especially in the morning),
irritability, weakness in concentration, depression and low motivation associated with low energy levels.
The more caffeine consumed, the more severe the side effects. For example, coffee is four times more potent than green tea.
How long does caffeine withdrawal last?
Caffeine withdrawal usually lasts up to 12 days. After this time, the worst side effects should have passed. Most of the time, withdrawal symptoms start within 12-24 hours or with a delay of up to 36 hours. They peak between 20 and 50 hours.
Within 2 to 9 days, the worst symptoms should finally be over.
Cold turkey or slow withdrawal from caffeine addiction?
There are two ways to withdraw from a substance. The so called cold turkey withdrawal (where you suddenly give up completely) or the so called slow withdrawal. Cold turkey can work for mild addictions. However, the stronger the addiction, the more we recommend the slow withdrawal.
It is scientifically proven that small steps give you the time to get your brain used to the new habit. Taking small steps minimizes withdrawal symptoms and, at the same time, minimizes the likelihood of relapsing. A simple plan to quit caffeine consumption is the 25% method to lessen withdrawal symptoms.
The 25% method for reducing withdrawal symptoms
The 25% method works in the following way. Each week, swap 25% of your normal coffee intake for decaf. The first week you drink 75% regular coffee and 25% decaf, while the second week you only drink 50% of the regular coffee. The last week you get by with 25% of the normal coffee. With this method, you'll be coffee-free after just 3 weeks. And the best thing - without any severe withdrawal symptoms.
Take the next step towards a caffeine-free and self-determined life.