Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Caffeine Withdrawal Considered a "Mental Disorder"!

I was reading an old issue of Vegetarian Times and saw a short mention about a study by John Hopkins School of Medicine (published in their 10/04 issue of Psychopharmacology) which categorizes caffeine withdrawal as a "mental disorder".

According to Roland Griffiths, PhD (professor at John Hopkins),"Caffeine is the world's most commonly used stimulant, and it's cheap and readily available so people can maintain their use of caffeine quite easily." "The latest research demonstrates, however, that when people don't get their usual dose they can suffer a range of withdrawal symptoms, including headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating. They may even feel like they have the flu with nausea and muscle pain."

And it seems that the more you drink, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms will be.

According to an article on the John Hopkins website, some common symptoms include:

1. Headache

2. Fatigue or drowsiness

3. Dysphoric mood including depression and irritability

4. Difficulty concentrating

5. Flu-like symptoms including nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and/or stiffness

Any or all of the above-mentioned symptoms can occur anywhere from 12 to 24 hours after cessation of caffeine, intensifying between 24 and 48 hours, and lasting from 2 to 9 days after stopping. The severity of symptoms increases, incrementally, according to the amount of caffeine imbibed. In other words, the more you drink, the worse it will be.

And I certainly can attest to that!! Hello, my name is Incognito and I'm a recovering caffeine addict. Prior to quitting I was probably a 20 plus cup-a-day-er. I started off my day with a pot of coffee and ended it with another one- not to mention the many cups I drank throughout the day. I loved coffee. Loved the taste, loved the aroma. Still love the aroma. I also happened to be addicted to nicotine. I smoked 3 plus packs a day. As with caffeine, I started my day and ended my night with a cigarette. So it was a truly hideous experience when I decided to quit both at the same time, cold turkey. Not only was I dealing with caffeine withdrawal, I also had to suffer through nicotine withdrawal , as well, and it was not a pretty picture. I think I suffered from all of the above listed symptoms and more, including my head spinning for several days. I was what you could call a witch with a capital B. The major hell lasted from 3 to 4 weeks, but I overcame the caffeine addiction easier than I did the nicotine. I struggled with the latter for years after I quit. However, I have never picked up a cigarette (or anything caffeinated) in 20 plus years. But I have to admit, up until a few years ago, I was still having cigarette dreams. Nightmares, really. I would dream I had started smoking again and wake up in a panic, wondering if I actually had, and being profoundly relieved that I hadn't.

It turns out that coffee is one of the most popular drinks in this country. Apparently, 80 to 90 percent of the North American population drinks- no - is addicted to caffeine, and just one cup of coffee per day can get you addicted.

This article (and many others) recommend the best way to quit is to slowly wean yourself off of caffeine, which is what I would and should have done, had I known. Actually, I would never have started drinking coffee had I known how addictive it was. So, for those of you who might be contemplating kicking the habit (and I encourage you to do so) here are some interesting facts:

Nutritional Value of Caffeine? Zippo

Pros: Not many, other than giving you an extra added zip. Though it never did me, because I developed a tolerance to it, I suppose.

Cons: Causes major addiction. Interferes with the absorption of many vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, B Vitamins and magnesium. Because it's a diuretic, if taken with food, most of the nutrients will be flushed out of your system. It taxes the liver, because it has to work harder to rid the body of all the chemicals and toxins. Can cause insomnia. Affects your REM sleep, which is when the body does its resting and repairing. Forces the adrenal glands to work overtime, which can lead to inflammation and immune system troubles. (I have to wonder if all my health issues might somehow be related to my overuse of caffeine and nicotine).

Anyway, the list goes on. For more information check out a book by Dr. Stephen Cherniske called "Caffeine Blues".

Bottom line, there's really nothing redeeming about coffee, or using caffeine in any form, for that matter. There are plenty of coffee substitutes that are palatable enough if you really crave something hot and java-like.

Coffee Substitutes: Postum. Bambu. Cafix. Pero. Teeccino. Roma. Inka. Raja's Cup. All of these are grain beverages and I've tried most, although Pero and Roma are my favourites.

I now exclusively drink Sleepytime tea, but once in a while I crave a cup-a-joe, and I settle for one of the above. They are also great to bake with.

For more info than you'd ever care to know about coffee can be found here.


Daniel said...

very interesting. I don't think I have yet added this blog to mine, albeit I have known of your closet republican blog

Frasypoo said...

I drink a cup of coffee in the morning and maybe 1 cup or none of hot tea in the evening.
WOW 20 cups and you stopped !That requires nerves of steel!

Frasypoo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Incognito said...

DANIEL: I learned more than I ever cared to know about caffeine researching this post.

FRASYPOO: I do have a strong will.. cos was able to endure a hideous time during withdrawal.. I had no idea it would be that bad. I was not a fun person to be around during that first month or so.

B said...

20 cups a day - wow!!

Incognito said...

And it might have been more, at times.... don't really miss it at all.. then again, it has been years and years.. :-)