By Shamus Posted Tuesday Nov 6, 2007

Filed under: Personal 84 comments

Caffeine is tricky stuff. You can drink some and get a boost, but then you have to pay for it later with some mild lethargy. Worse, drink it on a regular basis and it will stop giving you a boost, at which point you’re dependant on the stuff. Now you need caffeine just to be “normal” and you’ll experience serious lethargy if you don’t drink it. I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice that this is kind of a ripoff. It’s like the First Law of Thermodynamics as applied to mental states: You can’t ever really “get ahead”.

It feels like a sort of credit card where you can borrow energy that must be paid back later. You can keep making payments every day to maintain the debt, but as soon as you stop paying (taking caffeine) the borrowed energy is repossessed. Abruptly. You’ll pay back the energy, and then some, in the form of a prolonged crash. Just like with a credit card, what you pay back is always going to be a good bit more than what you borrowed in the first place.

I knew all of this, but I fell for it anyway. I’d been incrementally increasing my coffee intake over the last year. When a rough day came along I’d have an extra cup, which then became my new minimum payment. When the weather turned cold, I foolishly started drinking a little more each day because hot coffee is great for keeping warm. (A contributing factor to this was getting a coffeemaker with an opaque pot. It’s insulated, which saves energy, but it allowed me to up my intake without noticing. How many cups have I had again? Three? Yeah. Probably three. Hey. Why is the pot empty?)

A couple of weeks ago I realized I was in trouble when my wife woke up and found the coffee pot was empty. I’d demolished our entire 12-cup pot on my own. Oopsie.

I knew I couldn’t do anything about it right away (aside from brewing another pot of coffee) because I was knee-deep in a major project at work that was already demanding overtime. So I just maintained my habit. Last week I finished that project, and this weekend I got rid of the coffee. I hate being in debt, and by this point I’d run up quite a bill.

I replaced the regular coffee with decaf and endured the crash. I’m now on day four of the process. I’ve gone from having 1350mg of caffeine to about 50mg a day. (Even decaf has a bit of caffeine. ) My body has filed numerous protests in the form of headaches, lethargy, drowsiness, and a sort of generalized state of non-specific suckitude.

Yesterday I dashed off the snarky bit about the writer’s strike, and then as I read the comments I wondered WHAT IS EVERYONE’S PROBLEM TODAY?!?!? It was one of those, “everyone else is driving like a jerk” moments, where I realized everyone else was (probably) normal and “everyone’s problem” was that I was in a state of perpetual agitation.

I’m in a mess of my own making, the result of being careless with a habit-forming psychoactive stimulant. This is easy compared to quitting smoking (not that I would know, I don’t smoke) but it still sucks and I’m kicking myself for letting it go this far.

Other amusing symptoms:

  • I’m not suffering from sleepyness, but I feel stupid. My memory is really bad.
  • I’m clenching my jaw pretty much constantly. I don’t know why, but I can tell you it’s not because I’m enjoying it. Ow.
  • My face hurts. Even when I can’t see it.
  • My eyes hurt? Like, a lot?
  • My memory is really bad.

Interesting experience. I think I’m passed the worst of it now, but if I seem unusually grumpy please humor me. I’m not really an awful person, I’m just punishing you for my mistakes. Is that so wrong?


From The Archives:

84 thoughts on “Caffeine

  1. Adam says:

    After getting to the point of needing a couple energy drinks in the morning with a sustained coffee intake all day, I had to quit. The first week of July this year saw me take a week vacation and stop ALL caffine intake. Talk about a huge life change. I’m from the South and still live here, Iced Sweet Tea is like water and the stuff is packed with caffine. I cut out soda, tea and coffee. It sucked for that entire week… big time. Now I can wake up easier, stay going longer and when I lay down to sleep I’m not all jittery.

    It is hard, and just know that there are others fighting with you.

  2. maehara says:

    I know that caffeine-withdrawal feeling all too well. I’m typically on 4-6 mugs of coffee & 1-2 litres of Coca Cola per day during the week (so that’s a sugar rush a caffeine boost!) – all in the name of getting me through the working day. Used to be that, come the weekend, that would pretty much drop to zero – until I started wondering why, come Sunday morning, I woke up with what felt like the hangover from hell, without the fun of having had the alcohol the night before. Not fun.

    Lack of caffeine, of course, and I’d start getting the same sort of symptoms if, say, I was stuck in a meeting all morning & couldn’t get to the coffee machine. Cue an afternoon that was no fun at all.

    I haven’t got to the stage of cutting back yet, though. A mug before bed knocks the hangover feeling on the head, and a 500ml bottle of Coke is my trusty sidekick. I’m the addict who’s realised he’s got a problem, but can’t quite bring himself to do anything about it. One of these days…

  3. maehara says:

    Ack. And in my caffeine-addled typing haste, I seem to have mucked up some HTML tags. Sorry… :(

  4. Spider says:

    I’m a big coffee drinker and caffeine addict as well. I’ve give up coffee for various reasons. So, let me say, I feel you pain. As a general rule, I don’t get headaches, but those I got when I gave up coffee cold turkey where crippling. That being said, let me tell you some things that will help. 1) Lots of water. It’s good for you anyway, but it seems to counter some of the muscle related affects. 2) Dark chocolate (or some other mild caffeine), which should be used to step down, but without going back to coffee. This will lighten the fatigue and pain symptoms, but not result in a crash.

  5. Kevin says:

    I use Aleve to deal with the headache that comes with caffeine withdraw…for me, it lasts about 2 days, but I never get up to a pot of coffee. The headache is about the only thing that hits me…but without the Aleve, it hits like a Mac Truck.


  6. Arcturus Beta says:

    I used to drink a lot of Coke, and still do. My parents got very concerned about my caffeine intake and tried to minimize it. They failed. Later, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and the doctor pointed out that I was just attempting to self-medicate without realizing anything was wrong. I have medications now to keep me awake, but I still indulge in drinking a lot of caffeine.
    And I can empathize with the withdrawal symtoms.

  7. Mari says:

    I can sympathize a great deal with you on this one, Shamus. I’ve watched the hubs work his way up to a three pot a day habit and then try to go back to more normal coffee-drinking like a pot a day or so. It was painful to see what can only be described as DTs.

    I’m lucky in that when my own caffeine intake needed to go down, I was already so variable in my habits that my body wasn’t craving the boost, just occasionally excited after the fact. But I have my own nasty habits that my bod does and does not want me to kick.

    The grumpies will eventually pass and things will level out for you again and that’s when your body will start thanking you. Until then, don’t worry about your readers, worry about your wife. She’s the one that’s going to get the brunt of your bad mood. Maybe you should buy her nice things to make up for it….. ;-P

  8. Brian says:

    First, take some comfort in the knowledge that ditching caffeine is MUCH harder than quitting smoking. At least in my experience. Nicotine cessation was 2 weeks of finding new habits to replace the smoking, and a month of not going out to the bar (because I didn’t trust myself). I quit cold turkey.

    I’ve quit caffeine a couple of times now, and each time, it has been agony. Headaches, nausea, sweating, chills — basically bedridden for a weekend. Actual withdrawal!

    But, I always come back. Because ‘I'm not suffering from sleepyness, but I feel stupid. My memory is really bad.’ doesn’t go away. Last time I quit being off caffeine was after the 2004 election — that was a day for coffee. I drink somewhere between 20 and 60 ounces a day. If I don’t, I pay the price.

    Lately, though, I haven’t been getting a boost at all, so I might quit again. I’m hoping for a bout of the flu, so that I can just have an awful 3-4 day gap wherein I can drop the caffeine in the haze of being miserable anyway.

    I say this knowing full well that I’ll be back.

    ‘My eyes hurt? Like, a lot?’

    Drink more water, and try having a lie-down with a warm, damp washcloth over your eyes. I get this a lot; I blame my contacts. I’m due for a new prescription.

  9. Strangeite says:

    Never. I will never never never never never give up my coffee. They will have to pry the mug from my cold dead hands. In fact, even though I grind my own coffee beans every morning, I have stockpiled a couple of dozen giant cans of ground coffee just in case there is a collapse of civilization.

    Oh the horror.

  10. Wonderduck says:

    I cut back on the caffine after my Cardiac Incident, but I couldn’t entirely stop. Then there was the final push to complete my AMV back in May, and in one four-hour session, I drank a six-pack of Pepsi.

    I didn’t sleep that night, I was shaking, and it felt like my eyes were vibrating.

    I haven’t had anything more than incidental caffine since. There weren’t any withdrawl symptoms; that’s probably because I had backed down over the course of a year.

    However, now I’m addicted to orange soda. It never ends…

  11. Hal says:

    My face hurts. Even when I can't see it.
    I know what you mean, it’s killing me (sorry, I can’t resist that joke).

    That being said, I have my days where I’ll end up drinking 4 or 5 cans of Diet Mt. Dew (Code Red), so I feel ya. Still, grad school has been such that I usually can’t afford to give up caffeine except between semesters.

    And I don’t even pull all-nighters.

    BTW, did you make that caffeine graphic? I like it, and I’d be interested in knowing how you made it (I could do something similar for presentations in the future).

  12. Jahnoth says:

    I never have nor ever will drink coffee. However, with that said, I drink a lot of pop (soda). My biggest vice for a long time was Dr. Pepper. Tried cutting out the sugar, at least, so went to Diet for awhile. Then, Pepsi came out with its Pepsi Jazz, which includes a Black Cherry and French Vanilla flavor. And oh my, my addiction has changed. Still caffeine, but no sugar. Heh. My weekends aren’t bad, and my evenings are caffeine-free… But I’m still an addict.

  13. Shamus says:

    Graphic was swiped from wikipedia and tilted / blurred. Hey look! It’s derivative work!

  14. beno says:

    I quit coffee completely recently too. Similar experience though not as extreme because I was only addicted to one-a-day and only for a few months. It still sucked. I’m now trying to get off tea – again not as severe but 5-6 cups a day can still make you feel quite pickled. I think it’s partly in the drinking too, same as smoking having an oral fix component.

    You can also try giving up _percolated_ coffee and only ever having cappucinos or lattes. They have less coffee per volume just because it’s a greater proportion of milk/cream. I find this works okay, and also it’s harder to go back for seconds because you’d have to go out to the cafe again.

  15. guy says:

    I don’t have caffeine, because i can be both wired and nauseous at the same time when i do. It sucks.

  16. I used to be a heavy Coke fiend. Classic, all teh way. from college right through grad school. Then one day my friends and I sat around and reasoned thus: coke has sugar, so maybe its the sugar thats holding us down and making us so tired in eth afternoon. Popping another Coke at 4pm has no effect because we are already on a sugar crash, and we are just making it worse.

    So we all switched ot Diet Coke. Boom! I can’t tell you what an amazing difference that made. Incidentally, I also lost ten pounds in a week after that switch.

    I do drink a lot of coffee, but i only have a four cup maker at ome and I am kind of lazy so making a new pot is a pain. I’m also a big Diet Coke Plus, and Coke Zero fan now. And I love me my Splenda. Splenda is just the best thing ever. That way i can sweeten my coffee, and get my caffeine without teh sugar rush.

  17. Becca says:

    I was forced to quit coffee in my first pregnancy — one morning, I got my usual morning cup and found that the smell was just overwhelming. I couldn’t get it near my nose. Having had no morning sickness whatsoever with that pregnancy, I spent the next week just miserable from the caffeine withdrawal.

    Even after that passed, I made sure not to drink it every day, and to limit myself to only the occasional 1-2 cups.

  18. Deoxy says:

    ADHD. Caffeine calms me down – it can literally put me to sleep if I hit it hard and fast enough (slam a can of Mountain Dew, for instance).

    SO… I never developed a taste for coffee (I’m only met one or two people in my life who liked coffee to begin with – it’s nasty, vile stuff that the vast majority of people learn to like BECAUSE of the caffeine hit that comes with it).

    But my mother-in-law… she’d wonder why she got these headaches when she came to visit us. Turns out, they would go away if she had a Coke or two…

    Yeah, she’s on decaf now. Heh.

    But, on a more serious note, comparing caffeine to credit cards is really quite clever. Consider it swiped. :-)

  19. Downtym says:

    Due to a complete lack of concern for my own personal health – ironic given the number of sports I participated in during my youth – I consume almost no other liquids then carbonated drinks. I wake up in the morning and have a Coke. About 11am, I go to lunch and have a Coke. Around 3pm, I get thirsty and have a Coke. When I get home around 7pm I have a Coke. And somewhere in there, I might have one or two cups of coffee.

    On days when caffeine is not within reach I am absolutely useless in every possible way. I’d like to think that my rather pathetic diet means that my body has evolved to deal with malnutrition and dehydration, but I know it’s just plotting to get me back with a golfball sized kidney stone when I’m 40.

  20. C David Dent says:

    I was a pot-a-day man at one time and had to cut back. So I stopped altogether. I felt like crap for a couple of days, but soon returned to normal. After a month or so i started drinking java again, but this time I was able to control it.

    I have found myself in that cycle a few times over the years, and each time about a month to reset does the trick.

  21. Lebkin says:

    This reminds me of a great story. My roommate Michael is a serious caffeine addict. So much so that he’s more likely to go out buy pop than food if the cupboards are bare.

    Well, one time I did my standard grocery shopping, and bought pop I like: IBC Root Beer and a variety of Faygo. No one complained, and we went about drinking it. A few days later, he is just standing in the middle of the living room, staring at a can of pop, with several empties around him. I ask him what is wrong. He looks at me with the despair of an addict and says pathetically “It has no caffeine; no wonder my head hurts so much.”

    Apparently, Mike had been drinking more and more pop, trying to get rid of his caffeine headache, not knowing that every kind of pop I brought home was caffeine free. Having figured it out, he proceeded to the store to save his sanity with some “real” pop, aka Mountain Dew.

  22. nilus says:

    Here is what I found when I got the Caffenie monkey off my back. You need to drink something, your body is use to having a lot of liquid in your body. Instead of decaf coffe though I would suggest water or even better fruit juice. The sugar in the juice might not be the best thing for you but its better then the caffeine and it will help you get past those really bad days.

  23. Gary says:

    This is why I don’t drink any caffiene in any shape or form. I figure it is easier to avoid addiction pains if I just eliminate the possibility from my life.

    Not to mention the fact that it would totally mess me up because of the other sleep issues that I already have. (Sleep Apnea)

  24. Shinjin says:

    Like many I used to be hooked. My delivery system was Mountain Dew rather than coffee and I don’t think I ever got up to the level you described, though.

    The first time I quit (yes, I do occasionally have to repeat the process) was on a Friday before a weekend where I had a ton of landscaping/yardwork to do. I spent so much time focused on what I was doing and working up a sweat that I never noticed my withdrawal symptoms.

    The times I’ve cut it out since then haven’t been as merciful, though.

    As to the “oral fix”, I’ve found that keeping a glass of water at my desk all day long satisfies that for me.

  25. Joe says:

    Way back when, I was a Coke addict, usually drinking 8-12 12oz cans a day. I tried cutting back or stopping a few times, and it was pretty bad. About a year ago, I went on a diet with my wife, and that necessitated cutting out Coke. (I don’t do diet cola. My stand-by sweetener joke is “which would you like, diabetes, cancer, neurotoxin, or the mystery death behind door number splenda?”) Strangely, it wasn’t that bad. I’m convinced that it wasn’t mostly because smoking (which I quit about 2-3 years ago) is a very effective complementary addiction. That’s not the case for you, but I think the other component for me was changing my diet at the same time. So my suggestion is to drink as much as you can, non-caffeinated (for me that was milk, juices, and lemon water. As a side rant: why in the name of all that is holy does it seem impossible for any beverage maker to come up with the radical idea of making a reduced sugar beverage by the incredible technique of not putting so much sugar in it?), and maybe try changing around your diet some, add some extra protein here and there…

    Anyhow, after a month or two, I went back… I started having a cup of coffee in the morning. being the geek I am, I wanted to figure out what the difference in my caffeine level during the day was. So I made up a spreadsheet to compare two arbitrary caffeine regimens. It’s here or, if you don’t like the openoffice format, also here.

  26. Joe says:

    Similarly, I’ve never met anyone who liked the taste of coffee before becoming addicted, but I’ve also met very few people who don’t really like the *smell*. Nothing particularly insightful there, just something odd I’ve noticed…

  27. Mavis says:

    It’s hard. I used to have a major cola habit – 2 to 3 litres a day major cola habit. One day I went cold turkey – I got the shakes, fever, and total lack of energy. Knocked me flat for a good 3 or four days.

    9 years – and still dry.

  28. Telas says:

    Didn’t anyone tell y’all that you need to taper your caffeine intake when you kick the habit? Make half a pot for two days, then only drink two cups for a few days, then taper to a comfortable level. Cold turkey and caffeine don’t mix!

    (Or: slowly increase the amount of decaf grounds in the mix, but don’t let yourself drink more in volume.)

    I’ve cut back from two pots a day to one (largish) mug a day a few times like this, and no headache, no lethargy, no problem…

    ,b>Deoxy: Did you just swipe Shamus’s credit card analogy? **groan**

  29. Dylan Zimmerman says:

    I remember when my Dad and his girlfriend gave up coffee cold turkey. For some odd reason, they did it over the Christmas break, but that’s neither here nor there. They did it, and so can you! Best of luck to you in your detox.

  30. Avaz says:

    I can’t stand the taste nor the smell of coffee. Especially espresso, absolutely revolting.

    I fail to understand how on earth anyone can continue to drink something they don’t like in the first place – to the point of addiction, wherein they need to continue. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

    If I have to partake in caffeinated drinks, I’d prefer tea.

    But really, my main point is that second paragraph. Puzzling to me.

  31. Phlux says:

    I think if you drank an entire pot by yourself that you were ingesting a tad more than 1350 mg. One 6oz cup of coffee has around 200-250mg. Times twelve is roughly 2400-3000 mg.

    If someone who never drank caffeine before ingested that much at once, they would probably have to be hospitalized.

    On a related note, it’s scary how caffeine is so aggressively marketed these days. At a LAN party a few years ago I won as a door prize a tin of caffeinated breathmints. Two of these was equivalent to an entire can of coke.

    I’ve also seen caffeinated soap. It’s called “Shower Shock”. Supposedly you can absorb it through your skin, though I don’t see how that makes a lot of sense. Great marketing though.

  32. V says:

    As a teenager I drank enough caffeine that I began to have horrible side-effects, culminating in hallucinations and bad kidney pain. I managed to stop cold-turkey by massively increasing my sugar intake. Of course a year later I decided that maybe caffeine wasn’t so bad after all and started the whole thing back up again.
    And I never liked the smell of coffee. Gives me headaches.

  33. Hal says:

    After reading the thread, I thought of a couple of things:

    If you’re drinking more than 2 sodas in a day, you should really consider switching to diet soda. The sugar calories you’re consuming become the equivalent of a meal if you have more than a couple of sodas. Fruit juice is no better. If you just want liquid and won’t drink water, at least go with Crystal Light.

    And the artificial sweeteners in diet soda won’t give you cancer. That’s an urban legend. When rats were fed excessive amounts of the sweetener, only female rats developed any sort of problems, and the reason is because one of their enzymes which interact with the sweetener has a certain configuration. The male rats don’t have the same configuration, and neither do humans (male OR female).

  34. Blackbird71 says:

    Well, as my high school physics teacher always said, “There’s no free lunch in the universe,” i.e., everything will be paid for some time in some way.

    Of course, if you ever asked him what we were doing for class on a particular day, he’d always say, “Contemplating our belly-buttons,” so take the wisdom for what it’s worth…

    I don’t drink coffee, but it’s often interesting to observe the habits of my coworkers in this respect. We have a coffee stand at work that offers $3 shots of practically straight caffeine, and one of my colleagues will sometimes down two of these in a row. That can’t be good for the system, and it get’s a bit pricey too.

    I also don’t care for colas, and have only ever had a handful of Cokes, etc., in my life. However, I get migraines on a fairly frequent basis (yet another reason for me to avoid coffee, I get bad enough headaches on my own), and I discovered once that a Coke could do wonders to alleviate my pain. Of course I realize that like any drug, the effectiveness decreases with tolerance, so it’s a remedy I hardly use. It’s just interesting to note that there are a great many things which when used properly, are helpful, but when misused, quickly become hazardous and damaging.

  35. Davesnot says:

    Deoxy .. you said:

    ADHD. Caffeine calms me down – it can literally put me to sleep if I hit it hard and fast enough (slam a can of Mountain Dew, for instance).

    Ya may wanna check if you’re hypoglycemic.. similar symptoms as ADHD and the huge drop in energy (can’t stay awake.. zonk!) after the sugar hit.. classic symptom.. that path leads to adult diabetes..

    Gotta love the unleaded coffee.. read that as _gotta_ love it.. meaning I’ve been forced to tell myself that I love the lack of caffine it gives me… when in fact I soooo would like to pound some serious caffine even if it does make my heart skip all over and delivers palpitations that last more than 20 minutes.. nope.. gotta love the decaf.

  36. Eltanin says:

    I’ve been through the coffee cycle numerous times myself. However, I rarely drank the stuff for the lift, but for the taste. There’s something deliciously rich about coffee that tea can never replace. There must be something about my metabolism that resists the effects of caffeine, because I’ve never had a problem with drinking coffee and then going right to be. Which is not to say that I have never gotten my tail twisted by a strong “cup” (read: pot) of coffee, but I really have to aim for that goal. Similarly, unless I’ve really worked myself up to the state that you were in (downing a 12-cup pot by yourself), I rarely have suffered from major withdrawal pangs. Oh I’ve had them, just not every time. Lucky I guess. I usually manifest a terrible headache and a towering black mood when the caffeine withdrawal does hit.

    Now I’m trying a homeopathic treatment for various quirks. It’s been a successful experiment so far, but it came with a price. Apparently the oil from coffee beans can completely undo any benefit from the homeopathic. So I’m not supposed to drink coffee. Ever again. Sure I can have caffeine, so I don’t have that problem, but I drank coffee because I really really liked it. Ever again? Aw crud. So far “ever again” has been since January. We’ll see.

    Good luck getting out from under the painful obelisk that you’re carrying right now.

  37. Estelyn says:

    Try green tea – it has considerably less caffeine, just enough to get low blood pressure people like myself moving in the morning. It kicks in slower and stays longer than the coffee or black tea caffeine. It also has numerous health benefits. And if you choose a sort with added fruit flavor, it’s easy to skip the sugar – no bitterness to it, and it tastes great iced.

  38. novas0x2a says:

    I typically try to maintain a 3/1 schedule with coffee- 3 weeks of productive coffee-drinking, 1 week of somewhat-less-productive herbal tea. It keeps the caffeine effective and my withdrawal phase less evil. It helps me keep a 5 hr/night sleep schedule (except for one night a week where I sleep for >12 hrs).

    … I’ll suffer for this eventually, but for now, it works :)

  39. Ingvar says:

    When I was in the service, I used to drink 3-4 liutres of coffee per day. I must’ve broken something quite bad, because these days I don’t even get withdrawal if I stay off the stuff for a couple of weeks.

  40. Chris says:

    Hang in there, Shamus.

  41. Mike says:

    “My memory is really bad”

    “My memory is really bad”


    I’ve avoided getting hooked on caffeine myself… but these days I’m probably up to an avg of one cup/day. Not enough to get withdrawals if I don’t have a cup in the morning, but close. And if I have two cups in the morning… look out!!!

    I had a co-worker that was… well… bubbly. I am not a morning person. One morning at 8:00 am, she came in and started spouting off something at a mile a minute. I gave her a serious deer in the headlights look (btw she’s like 5’nothing). When she finally stopped, I asked how much coffee she had had. She said “Why?” I said “because you’re scaring me”.

    Drunk people are much more fun to watch than caffeinated people.

  42. Chuk says:

    I started slow, just a couple of pops most days…not even every day. But once we had kids and I was spending more time awake at night, then getting up earlier for work, I started drinking tea (with lots of milk), then I noticed that we have cheap coffee here at work…

    I’ve kicked it a few times, mostly for the gastrointestinal effects rather than because it wasn’t giving me a pickup anymore. I’m kind of on a decline right now — no coffee, just occasional caffeinated soda.

  43. mikeful says:

    I don’t drink coffee but tea is my weak spot. Currently I’m drinking about 3-5 cups a day.

  44. ydant says:


    “Now I'm trying a homeopathic treatment for various quirks. It's been a successful experiment so far, but it came with a price. Apparently the oil from coffee beans can completely undo any benefit from the homeopathic.”

    You really should research homeopathy, especially if you are spending money on your remedies. The oil in the coffee beans cannot possibly be interfering with the homeopathy, because homeopathic remedies are nothing more than _extremely_ dilluted substances. Dilluted to the point that, statistically, you’re not even getting one molecule of the original substance in the resulting “medicine”.

    It’s really an insane branch of alternative medicine, and is most likely nothing like what you have been lead to believe.

    Light hearted:

    Regarding caffeine, I go through the withdraw process from time to time. At the moment I’m at about 1 pot of tea/day, which isn’t so bad. I’d love to be totally without, but I enjoy my tea/coffee in the morning (even ignoring the caffeine – it’s just pleasant to drink).

  45. Phlux says:

    Blackbird: Have you ever tried a non-caffeinated product as a migrane remedy? Soda products were widely touted as remedies in the first half the last century. This is why they were sold in pharmacies.

    It may not be the caffeine or sugar or whatever, but it could simply be the carbonation that is helping you. In which case something like sprite or seven-up which has no caffeine might do the trick, or even an alka-seltzer tablet.

    Obviously the reports of soda’s magical healing properties were overstated, but there is always a nugget of truth.

  46. Stubby says:

    Tea is my achilles heel so to speak – I am a Brit after all.

    I couldn’t figure out why I kept getting a headache every other Sunday evening. I work alternate Saturdays, and lo, I was getting a headache on the Sundays following my Saturdays off work. I only drink tea at work, but then its like 5 mugs worth a day…

    I’m at the oh crap I’m hooked stage, got to get around to biting the bullet and doing something about it soon.

  47. David says:

    Never touch the stuff.

  48. stuff says:

    I don’t really drink caffine that often, mabye a cup of joe or a few cokes every once in a while. except for marathon gaming sessions or programming sessions. Then I am liable to down a six pack of red bull, two or three caffine tablets and a five hour energy thingy in under six hours.
    I’ve made it up to thrity nine hours without sleep while doing that. I paid for about a month.

  49. Amstrad says:

    I’ve been going through a semi-enforced caffeine withdraw over the last month or so. I say semi-enforced as it’s against my will and being enforced by my wallet, I just don’t have the spare cash to spend on soda. It’s not so bad, and I’m probably healthier for it.

  50. Viktor says:

    I don’t do coffee, but Coke often and in large amounts, and energy drinks once a week. I tried to cut back about a year ago, but then I started working, and when it’s 10pm, you have unlimited soda, you’re alone in the store, and no customers for over an hour, you drink caffine just for something to do. I haven’t made the mistake of trying to cut back since, because I know that fate would like nothing more than to put me into another situation where I need it.

  51. Eltanin says:


    Thanks for the links and opinion. I appreciate your attempt to make sure that I realize what homeopathy is like (there is no intended sarcasm in this statement).

    However, I’m pretty familiar with what homeopathy is and what it claims to do. I approached the subject with the greatest of skepticism. Ultimately I have come to feel that aspects of homeopathy are in fact, truly effective. I can’t claim that every remedy that I’ve ever taken has cured every ailment that it was supposed to. But I can claim (yes, only claim) that homeopathy has resulted in real, perceivable, and beneficial effects. Despite the fact that it gives off the appearance of being the most hand-waving, magical, “woo-woo” bunk.

    Acupuncture has been ridiculed for a long time by those trained in Western medicine. I mean, c’mon. Little needles? “Energy lines?” “Chi?” What patent bull. Heck, they even claim that “acupressure” works. Just the needle touching the skin in the right place. But in fact, acupuncture turns out to be amazingly effective and real. My limited understanding is that Western medicine still doesn’t truly understand why either.

    Comparing the ancient practice of acupuncture to the new-kid-on-the-block homeopathy could very well be farcical. I only intend to allude to the fact that just because it seems cracked, and the fact that people with “MD” after their names don’t understand it and therefore dismiss it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t actually have an effect. Even a good effect.

    Pardon my lack of supporting documentation and links. Please just take this as an opinion, not a well-supported rebuttal.

  52. RPharazon says:

    Luckly, I haven’t been addicted to Caffeine, nor any other form of drug. The closest I’ve ever come to a Caffeine addiction is when I repeatedly bought 12-packs of Dr. Pepper. 2-3 cans each day was nice, and I was making a big tower. I realized that, but eventually I stopped and felt like a mound of crap.

    I’m okay now though. :D

  53. Phlux says:

    We have a consultant who comes in to town every few weeks, and she travels a couple of timezones to the east, which is the hardest way to travel.

    During our big project implementation, our team was buying 32oz mcdonald’s iced coffees in the morning. Those things have probably around a gram of caffeine in them, as well as sugar, cream, etc…

    She never drinks caffeine otherwise, but we were all drinking a couple of these a day because of the hours. Now whenever she comes to down, she has to start the day with one. After 3 or 4 days of being here, she has withdrawls when she gets home.

    Caffeine is really really addictive stuff. I’m pretty much immune to its benefits now, and continue to drink it just so that I don’t have the withdrawls.

  54. Andre (xero) says:

    I’ve quit caffeine temporarily several times over the years. When I inevitably come back, I do so knowing full well what caffeine addiction entails, and what coming down off of that is like, too.

    The quitting process that I would recommend is NOT cold turkey. I’d recommend first getting an accurate gauge of exactly how much caffeine per day you’re taking in, then cutting it down by one serving every day. Once you’re aware, it’s easier to regulate it.

    Me, I’m currently addicted. I know full well that I’m addicted. And for the time being, I don’t mind at all. I’ve quit many times before, I know what it takes, and I know that I can do it whenever it’s convenient. Since it’s a physical addiction and not a psychological one, it’s possible to be voluntarily addicted: if you know what you’re getting into before you get into it, that is.

  55. Mari says:

    So I was at the store a little while ago and found caffeinated WATER. I am not making this up. You know, for if you’re a health nut who still likes caffeine, I guess?

    I have to admit, water has been my main limiter in my caffeine intake. For various reasons, I need 64-128 oz. of water per day. After all that water, there’s limited room left in my stomach for such niceties as other beverages since I try to wedge some food in there, too.

    My day these days goes: wake up, drink a single cup of coffee or a single coke (as we call all carbonated beverages here in the Lonestar State), fill the jug o’ liquid refreshment with water, drink jug before 11 AM, refill and re-empty by 1 PM, refill and re-empty by 5 PM, refill and re-empty by 9 PM, swear off liquids so I don’t sleep in a puddle. The “jug” incidentally, is an insulated cup that holds 32 oz with room left for a generous helping of ice.

  56. max says:

    I find I can cut down by about 1 cup a week without really experiencing any cravings…

  57. ArmySyko says:

    @Mari: I did that for a while when I was deployed with the military. Could never get enough and stuffing away caffeine was a tough thing to do.

    Caffeine is still a part of my day and I’ll keep drinking coffee and soda. I’m exercising more so I’ll have a chance to ween off of it when my natural energy and stamina return. I need more caffeine when I’m a slug and I’ve been this way for better than three years.

    Love the McD’s coffee drinks but can’t do many of those in a week.

  58. jpetoh says:

    In one of the earlier posts, I saw that someone had said that he/she had quit a caffiene addiction and had become addicted to orange soda.

    Hate to tell you, but most carbonated orange drinks have caffiene in them. Sunkist will give you as much of a buzz as cola. Citrus drinks also have an ingredient called ‘esther of wood rosen’. I like to point that out to my wife and gross her out.

  59. Old Man Matt says:

    I’ve been through this more than a few times myself. My advice is to avoid sunlight, drink lots of liquid, and rest for a few days. For liquids, you need to drink something that tastes great like lemonade or juicy juice or milkshakes. Avoid diet drinks since they all taste horrible and decaffinated coffee because it tastes like real coffee (like tar also) and will make you crave the real stuff much worse. I find that drinking good tasting stuff helps enormously. Also try eating candy to fight that stupid feeling with sugar. For the eyepain, sleep is best, followed by staying indoors. Sunlight will make them hurt much worse.

  60. Mr. Son says:

    I’ve started giving up caffeine for lent every year (I’m not any sort of Christian, it’s just convenient). No caffeine for 40 days clears out my system, and keeps me from ending up needing over a dozen energy drinks a day just to stay at “normal” energy levels.

    …It has the bonus of proving to my grandmother that yes, indeed I CAN give up caffeine if I wanted to, I just don’t WANT to. Which is a really frustrating sentence to utter when you actually mean it. So many people use it as any excuse, that any serious usage of it is met with eye-rolling and a sarcastic “sure”.

  61. Myxx says:

    I’m sure this is too far down to get read, but I’ll throw it out there anyway. When I cut out coffee about 2 years ago, I was on a pot-a-day pattern. Well, I wasn’t comfortable with the whole cold-turkey thing (I’ve been through chemical withdrawls before, which resulted in DT so bad I spent days in the ER). So, I started making 50/50, mixing in some decaf with my regular. After about week of that, I transitioned fully to decaf with absolutely no trouble. In fact, I love the taste of coffee, and now I can drink it for hours with only minimal caffeine intake. My brand of coffee claims to be 99.7% caffeine free, so I’ll live with my .3% intake. But if you want an easier exit, try the 50/50. It’s common enough that most coffee shops recognize it by that name.

  62. Rebecca says:

    Well, you’ve had enough comments, but I just wanted to say “Good for you!” I had to reduce my caffeine intake (because it can trigger anxiety) and now I can’t drink regular coffee. It makes my hands shake. It’s kind of cool! I pretend that I’m Michael J. Fox.

  63. Deoxy says:

    “Homeopathy” – the theory that supposedly makes the stuff work is COMPLETE AND UTTER BUNK, and no one with a microgram of sanity doubts that. HOWEVER, having used a homeopathic remmdy on my children for both ear aches and teething pains, and having seen it work well on infants (well before the “placebo” mental effect kicks in), I must admit that at least some of them manage to work anyway. Don’t know why (molecules DO NOT have such memory, or they’d just “remember” all kinds of useless crap all the bloody time – water spend the vast majority of its time in the freaking OCEAN, for example), but some of them do.

    Hypoglycemic: thanks for the warning… but I know I’m not. 1) my wife is, and I’m not anything like that, 2) I have slammed a 3-liter of a Sprite (just to prove it could be done), and I had no such reaction afterwards, and 3) it hits WAY too fast for that (less than 5 minutes). Though I do have diabetes in my family history… But it really is ADHD (the symptoms match unbelievably well in many other areas, too).

    Caffeinated water has been around for at least 9 years (saw some in college).

    “Shower shock” – yes, you can absorb stuff through the skin (“the patch” – birth control, quitting smoking, or other medication dosages – had a friend who was getting pain meds that way).

    “horrible side-effects” – I knew a couple of guys in high school who, on a trip, each bought a 6-pack of Jolt Cola (“All the sugar, twice the caffeine” – the first big “energy drink” fad, before they were called “energy drinks”). They both drank them as fast as they could… they were literally twitching and had blurred vision. Drunk watching is fun, up to a certain amount of alcohol… caffeine watching is less fun, until after a similar certain point, when it becomes hilarious.

  64. Blackbird71 says:

    Phlux said:
    “Blackbird: Have you ever tried a non-caffeinated product as a migrane remedy? Soda products were widely touted as remedies in the first half the last century. This is why they were sold in pharmacies.

    It may not be the caffeine or sugar or whatever, but it could simply be the carbonation that is helping you. In which case something like sprite or seven-up which has no caffeine might do the trick, or even an alka-seltzer tablet.

    Obviously the reports of soda's magical healing properties were overstated, but there is always a nugget of truth.”

    No, non-caffeinated sodas do nothing for the migraines. I’ve only used caffeinated sodas as a remedy about 2 or 3 times in my life.

    Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it causes the blood vessels to reduce in size. Migraines often involve the blood vessels expanding and putting pressure on the surrounding nerves, so caffeine can be used to counter this. Sorry, I can’t make links work, but Google “caffeine” and “headache” and you’ll find a number of medical articled on the topic.

    Personally, I’ve had a few prescriptions for my migraines, as well as OTC remedies. Even with these, when I’ve taken one for a while, the effect lessens and I have to trade off to a different medication. After I’ve got the first med out of my system I can usually go back to it at full effectiveness.

    As for soda itself, most of it’s usefulness as a remedy is related to stomach/gastrointestinal issues.

  65. Andre (xero) says:

    Inspired by this blog, Shamus, I’m making an attempt to tone down my caffeine consumption. I hit those withdrawal symptoms today like a brick wall. Ugh.

  66. Terrible says:

    I drink about a liter of coke a day, and I often think that if I hadn’t started when I was young, I wouldn’t touch the stuff now. I know that at this point I’m drinking it just to feel normal. At this point, though, I think I should probably end my long affair with coke and caffeine and start being a faithful partner to sleep. Right now waking up frelling hurts.

  67. Pembroke says:

    After seeing caffeine addiction take a hold of my brother (cola fiend, headaches when he tries to quit) and my sister (cannot “wake up” for hours unless she has a coffee) I’ve decided I really need to steer clear.

    I have never had coffee, nor have I ever noticed a benefit from drinking colas. Well, I’m watching out for my teeth now, so I cut out any drink but water.

  68. josh says:

    It’s funny – I drink coffee 3-4 days a week and don’t experience dependency like that. I can take it or leave it. When I drink it, I get a boost, but on the other days I feel pretty normal. Oddly, I used to be heavily addicted to nicotine – my battle to give up cigarettes was epic.

  69. lluviata says:

    @ Shamus: “Graphic was swiped from wikipedia and tilted / blurred. Hey look! It's derivative work!”

    LOL. Did you mean that joke? (ie: if the molecule were not cyclic, it would be an amide, a carboxylic acid DERIVATIVE) Or maybe I’m just a huge nerd for seeing “derivative” and immediately thinking of carboxylic acids.

  70. Methyl Xanthine says:

    I’m going to go on a nitpicky analysis of this thread from a sciencey point of view. :)

    “I think if you drank an entire pot by yourself that you were ingesting a tad more than 1350 mg. One 6oz cup of coffee has around 200-250mg. Times twelve is roughly 2400-3000 mg.”

    Unless you’re drinking really weird coffee, a 60oz cup does not have more than 70-80 mg. And let me assure you, 2400-3000 mg is enough to hospitalize anyone of normal size, experienced coffee drinker or not!

    “Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it causes the blood vessels to reduce in size.”

    Actually, caffeine acts as a vasodilator. The headaches are still caused by caffeine, but they stem from having an excess of blood in the brain’s capillaries.

    Caffeine in high doses has a number of crummy side effects, and really acts to only put off the fatigue. You’re repaying that fatigue in some way, so it really is best not to get reliant on the stimulatory effects.

    Interesting to note with sodas is that Diet versions often have far more caffeine than the regular versions, potentially explaining why some people like them more.

    “”Shower shock” – yes, you can absorb stuff through the skin (“the patch” – birth control, quitting smoking, or other medication dosages – had a friend who was getting pain meds that way)”

    While some drugs and chemicals are readily absorbed through the skin, they are made to do so in the cases you cited, often being wrapped in a lipid medium that allows proper perfusion past the skin. Caffeine itself will not pass through your skin, especially when given with a soap, so I doubt shower shock is waking you up that way. It might be enough to keep you peppy, though, but only because it smells good. :)

    With regards to homeopathy, I personally think it’s a well used application of the placebo effect.

    It’s interesting someone brought up acupuncture. A study was done (how many internet discussions start like that? :P) that had people on three regimens for the treatment of back pain.

    1) Over the counter meds
    2) Proper acupuncture
    3) Acupuncture, but the needles are placed at random in the person’s back

    Treatments 2 and 3 were not significantly different, but both were much better than treatment 1 at reducing back pain, showing just how much a little belief and some needles can do compared to actual medicine. Granted, I don’t have a citation and I’m sure this was based on self-assessment, marring the accuracy, but I still find it interesting enough to mention.

    I’m studying pharmacology and have looked at caffeine in detail, so this thread was very fun to read. The greatest irony, though, is that when working with doctors who study addiction, you’ll still find they drink 4 cups of coffee a day and smoke.

  71. Bonnie says:

    Shamus, I am a bit late to this discussion, but as someone who drank several double lattes a day for 15 years, I understand your pain. I quit caffeine this year, but I had to do it gradual. I lowered the number of shots of espresso in my coffee (replacing with decaf shots) over a 5 month period until I am not caffeine free (at least with coffee as the source). Quitting cold turkey literally put me flat on my back. I could not function because of the massive migraine headaches. So maybe try to wean yourself a bit more gradually by mixing some decaf in with the caffeine.

  72. Blackbird71 says:

    Methyl Xanthine said:
    “Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it causes the blood vessels to reduce in size.”

    Actually, caffeine acts as a vasodilator. The headaches are still caused by caffeine, but they stem from having an excess of blood in the brain's capillaries. ”

    Actually, that’s what I had thought for a long time. Then I bothered to look it up. You should too. Believe me, the last thing a migraine sufferer wants is enlarged blood vessels in the brain, that would just compound the problem.

    “I'm studying pharmacology and have looked at caffeine in detail, so this thread was very fun to read.”

    Study harder. (warning: contains a lot of detailed medical jargon, not an easy read for the average person)

    Sorry, still can’t make URLs work on this site, don’t know why, you’ll have to copy and paste.

  73. Blackbird71 says:

    Lol, ok, I guess the links started working on their own.

    Maybe it was jsut something about my settings that kept them from showing up right. Oh well, it works, I won’t complain! :)

  74. Seracka says:


    I believe you…I have ADD and focus much better on caffine than off.

    I have a friend who has ADHD and his father is a Pharmicist and gave him caffine pills instead of Ritalin to get him through school and no one knew the difference.

    It is because (I have been told) that people with ADD or ADHD react the opposite to stimulants.

    As for me, I have found that lots of water and one alkaseltzer tablet two times a day helps with caffine withdrwal. I don’t know why this works, I just know it does. I get the straight alkaseltzer and not the stuff with a painkiller in it. This is when cold turkey’ing it.

  75. Seracka says:

    Oh, and by the way. My father had a shunt put into his brain and was getting headaches and the first thing his Neurologist would tell us to do for his headaches and my migrains was to drink a caffinated drink.

    I am sure that would work better if I was not already an addict.

  76. Deoxy says:

    “With regards to homeopathy, I personally think it's a well used application of the placebo effect.”

    The placebo effect works on 5-month-olds? Try again.

    I’ll buy the placebo effect for a lot of things (a double-strength placebo would put the pharma-industry out of business, ROFL). Working on infants who don’t know they’re supposed to feel better? Nope, not buying that one.

  77. Deoxy says:

    Off-topic, but could somebody PLEASE make a flash game for killing Zwinkies? I’m pretty sure it would be VERY VERY VERY popular…

  78. PinkCoder says:

    Now that it’s been a few days, how are things progressing Shamus? I guess I am looking for a little support, because I’m considering “kicking the habit” soon and am dreading side-effects.

  79. Shamus says:

    Strangely, yesterday was one of the worst. No headache, but extreme agitation.

    Today I feel just fine. All I’ve had is decaf, which added together comes out to less than half a cup of coffee. No headaches. No agitation. No lethargy. Looks like it took six days to get through it.

    Good luck with your own efforts!

  80. ArchU says:

    I’m a regular caffiene user, but not abuser. Two cups a day is my usual run, occasionally more if I find myself falling asleep into the afternoon (sometimes sitting in the lab during quiet moments and with the a/c on has that effect on me – weeks when I’m not on the lab shift are no problem).

    When I take time off work I usually drink no coffee at all so that I can clear it out of my system.

  81. Lord of Fools says:

    I’ve gone from getting hyperactive from a small box of iced-coffee (more so than I would from the sugar alone, that is) to feeling one espresso just isn’t enough in the space of one month. I’m nowhere near that level though, and hope never to be.

  82. Deoxy says:


    Came back to look over this again, and what’s the add off to the right?




    & MORE”

    Now that’s funny.

  83. Andre (xero) says:

    Didn’t take me long. By last weekend I think the withdrawal symptoms were low. The hard part is that I love caffeine, and I love caffeinated beverages. I’m a big fan of tea and coffee, and soda is a nice drink to go with a snack, so cutting caffeine out without sacrificing the things I love to drink is really tough.

    I’m down to one cup of green tea in the morning, and (sometimes) a can of Coke before noon. That’s it. On the weekends, I let myself go a little more.

    I don’t think I did too bad. We’ll see how this affects my regular migraines.

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