Caffeine Addiction

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Upto 80 - 90% of adult Americans consume caffeine every day. Most commonly, the caffeine is in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate. This adds up to about 280 mg of caffeine per day, or the equivalent of about two cups of coffee.

Why should I be aware of this?

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, increasing the stress hormones in the blood streams, thus making a person feel unnaturally alert. Consequently induced alert state tends to subdue your body’s natural instincts and prevent it from relaxing. This causes undue stress and leads to various kinds of disorders.

Caffeine results in the same effects as alcohol, LSD, cocaine and other recreational drugs... making it the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world.

How does this affect me?

Daily caffeine intake induces a 24 hour cyclic disturbance in your body. While the morning cup of coffee or tea perks up your mood most people can’t stop at that. Almost every office goer develops a craving for the next cup and subsequently, a heavy fatigue sets in by late afternoon. Even if endless cups revives you at this time of the day, a total collapse is inevitable by evening. Irritability & fatigue along with an uncomfortable sensation are the usual symptoms. What is worse is that finally when you try to sleep away your blues at night, you just can’t. That’s no the end. The next morning you get up tired, thirsting for a steaming cuppa to settle your mood.

Thus begins a coffeeholic’s journey. At the end of which, apart from developing dark circles under the eyes, you can also acquire acidity problems, irregular palpitations and more. So next time you take a sip remember you are sipping a host of health problems too.

Caffeine in our daily diet

Most people think their only source of caffiene is a cup of coffee. On the contrary, caffeine is present in a large variety of food and beverage products we may consume daily.

Food and beverage Caffeine content (mg/serving)

Coffee(6 oz, normal teacup): Instant 57 Brewed, drip method 103 Brewed, percolator method 75 Tea(6 oz, normal teacup), 3-minute brew 36 Cola beverages(100ml), regular or diet 10 to 15 Cola beverage(6 oz normal teacup) 4 Milk chocolate(8 oz) 8 Dark Milk chocolate(1 oz) 8 to 20 Chocolate pudding half cup) 4 to 8

What can I do?

Since caffeine addiction was not considered an addiction by most people, treatment for the same was one of those areas of addiction recovery which still remains mostly unchartered.

However, with the increasing number of medical problems attributed to increased intake of caffeine, health professionals have taken a varied approach to treating the problem.

  • Give up gradually

The most common approach is to give up caffeine gradually. So when you are starting to feel like you just can’t live without it, convince yourself that you can.

  • Free yourself

Caffeine is a drug, and like any drug, in order to free yourself from addiction, you have to be committed to your plan of action, and be ready for the pain and frustration of withdrawal.

  • The key to quitting

The key to quitting is the knowledge that things will get worse before they get better. But, once they get better, they will stay better.

  • Write down the reasons for quitting

The reasons could be:

  • Weakened bones
  • Addiction/dependence
  • Causes anxiety
  • A cycle of hyperactivity and/or inability to focus, followed by a subsequent “crash”
  • Disrupted sleep habits and insomnia
  • May interfere with weight loss
  • Tooth decay
  • Financial costs to support caffeine purchases
  • A desire for a healthier pregnancy

Put this list somewhere that you can see it regularly, like on your mirror or work desk (or both). It will help keep you motivated.

  • Remember that quitting won't be easy

Realize that quitting will require a significant effort on your part. Erase any idea in your mind that quitting caffeine will be easy, or else you’ll be in for a big surprise. Expect it to be one of the most difficult things in the world, and you’ll be ready to give it your greatest effort.

  • Prepare for withdrawal effects

Prepare for the withdrawal symptoms, which can begin within hours of your last caffeine fix, and may last for up to two weeks:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor motor skills
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Count your savings

Sit down and calculate how much time and money you actually spend on caffeine. Think of other things you could do with that time and money. Buy and read the newspaper? Pursue a hobby? Save money for an iPod? Start a trust fund for a child you love? Find something that’s exciting and fulfilling, and think of it as your reward.

  • Don’t go at it alone

Don’t go at it alone. Find someone to quit with you. If you can’t find that kind of support, promise to someone whom you love and respect that you will quit caffeine. Thus, consuming caffeine in any form will make you break your promise, and this will provide you with another incentive to stay on the wagon.

  • Reduce your intake gradually.

You can set a schedule for yourself, such as “3 cups a day in the first week; 2 cups a day in the second week; 1 cup a day in third week; and none in the fourth week.”

Start replacing your caffeinated beverages with the decaf versions. Consider switching slowly to water as a substitute.

Allocate your caffeine money in the beginning of the week, so that if you over-consume it in the beginning of the week, you will have nothing to fall back onto in the end of the week. If you allocate less and less caffeine money as you go on, you will gradually reduce your intake.

Some helpful tips

Different people use different ways of quitting. What works for one person may not work for another. Try these steps in any order to see what works best for you.

  • Kicking it in one clear cut may work well for some, even with the symptoms. Feeling the headache and fatigue can actually demonstrate just what the caffeine is doing to your system. It does also give some an important sense of accomplishment - since some people may not notice the difference when giving it up gradually.
  • Get yourself a replacement drink, it could be water, carbonated water, juice, decaf - just something to get when the urge for a cup sneaks in.

“Postum” is very similar to coffee, but without any caffeine. Try it. You might like it.

  • As an alternative to quitting gradually, you could just go cold turkey. This is harder, but often more effective. If doing this, increase your water intake drastically, it will often help reduce the headaches.
  • Another thing to try: The first week, drink your coffee as you normally would. The second week, when you make your coffee, use 3/4 regular and 1/4 decaf. The third week, use 1/2 and 1/2. The forth week, use 1/4 regular and 3/4 decaf. The fifth week, you’re drinking decaf!
  • Use your strength to fight your weakness. Ex: If you are competitive, find someone just as competitive with you to compete with to see who can stay off of coffee the longest.

CopperBytes

  • There is caffeine in lots of drinks, not just the dark ones like coffee and cola. It is better to stay clear of energy drinks..
  • Chocolate and other cocoa derivatives contain a chemical similar to Caffeine called Theobromine.
  • Caffeine is an ingredient in many of the most frequently used prescription headache medications.
  • Decaffeinated coffee does contain a minimal level of caffeine.
  • Continuing to consume decaffeinated coffee does not constitute quitting caffeine. If you enjoy hot drinks, look instead for no caffeine products such as herbal teas or even soups.

References

  • Caffeine Awareness
  • National Geographic Article on Caffeine Addiction
  • All About Caffeine Addiction
  • What Caffeine Does to Us
  • Caffeine Addiction