Supplementing Caffeine
November 16, 2004 11:13 PM   Subscribe

As I mentioned in this thread, I drink rather a lot of caffeine. It doesn't actually do much any more and I don't want to increase my dosage since I get nasty headaches already when I don't have it. What I need is a more powerful (preferably legal) stimulant. Something that won't kill me or make me feel too weird but will give me the energy I need to keep my eyes open. Any suggestions? Does ginseng have any proven effect? Should I just start popping no-doz... I'm told the lethal dose of caffeine is 10 grams. I honestly think I could consume 10 grams without noticing it. I need better stimulants, damn it.
Thank you.
posted by Grod to Health & Fitness (26 answers total)
I haven't tried them, but I've been told spirulina tablets are good for energy.
posted by tracicle at 11:19 PM on November 16, 2004

Dude, you if you get withdrawal symptoms from caffeine, that seems like a sure sign you need less stimulants not more. Seriously, you might feel like shit for a week but you will be better off afterwards. Your average human being manages to keep their eyes open for 16 hours out of 24 without medication, as hard as that might be to believe.
That said, wasn't guarana the craze a few years ago? Or is that just full of caffeine? Oh well, there's always amphetamines...
posted by pascal at 11:25 PM on November 16, 2004

How about modafinil?
posted by Gyan at 11:59 PM on November 16, 2004

Agreed with the 'dear God, use less caffeine!' sentiment. I've been where you are: my stimulant of choice was (believe it or not) Excedrin, which happily has tons of caffeine and gets rid of caffeine withdrawal headaches!

You need to figure out a way to get by without so much stimulation, because ultimately it is wearing you down: sleeping well is harder, concentrating is harder, being healthy is harder when you're, essentially, speeding all the time. If you have one of those jobs where you're working a ton and you just need stimulation, as I did, it is still possible to get buy with less caffeine. What I did was:

1. Step down from coffee to tea; tea gives a mellower caffeine effect, has less caffeine, and is not as nasty.
2. For headaches, avoid all 'speedy' pain relievers (Exedrin, Sudafed, etc.)
3. Then adopt a pretty rigorous exercise and eating-well lifestyle. This is a huge help in terms of general alertness--largely because you feel better while awake and sleep way better, especially if you work out first thing in the morning (before breakfast).
4. Once you've done that, you can work your way back up to, say, a cup of coffee with breakfast, a cup of tea at 'tea time,' which is a sane and helpful amount of caffeine.

I can't recommend a better stimulant because, from my own experience, 'stepping up' from caffeine is a terrible idea.
posted by josh at 5:20 AM on November 17, 2004

Take vitamins. I take a generic multi and a B-complex supplement twice every day. If I forget to take them for a couple of days (and before I started) I'll fall asleep at work, guaranteed, caffeine or no.

Now, a small amount of caffeine plus vitamins keeps me nice and alert all day long. I've also found, since I've started the vitamin regimen, that I have far less trouble waking up in the morning.

The problem may not be that you need more stimulant, but rather that your brain is just fried. Vitamins can help fix that.
posted by jaded at 5:49 AM on November 17, 2004

So you're one of those people who can drink coffee before they go to sleep at night?

It may sound like a broken record but too much coffee is really not good for you. A friend of mine had a coffee intake similar to yours and had the following happen:

1. TMJ. The amount of coffee he was drinking was ratcheting up his system. He was clenching his jaws unconsciously, this started to create pain and his dentist ordered him to stop drinking coffee after 5 pm.

2. Kidney Stones One day he was sitting at his computer and an unbelievable pain came over his um, "lower regions". His doctor diagnosed it as kidney stones and suggested cutting down his coffee intake. Coffee produces calcium in the bloodstream, this calcium can turn into kidney stones, which are really, really painful.

The above advice is sound, instead of trying to make your system run faster, bite the bullet and go cold turkey on the caffeine. It may take a while and you will feel like crap, but really, is chemical dependence something you want as part of your life? After you've done that, changing to smaller amounts of coffee and perhaps tea will work. Also Guarana sodas can be found more readily in the US now and they will give you a kick, just not a coffee size kick. You need to readjust the levels your system needs to get up and running.
posted by jeremias at 5:55 AM on November 17, 2004

Gyan mentioned modafinil. Modafinil is very powerful and is supposed to be used as a treatment for narcolepsy and sleep disorders. I would suggest that you talk to your doctor before considering it.
posted by adrianhon at 6:33 AM on November 17, 2004

No need to repeat the warnings above.

Try yerba mate, which in my experience and that of the entire south american continent, provides plenty of energy for those who need it.
posted by ashbury at 6:47 AM on November 17, 2004

So you're one of those people who can drink coffee before they go to sleep at night?

I do it so I can dream faster...
posted by crank at 6:57 AM on November 17, 2004

if you try yerba mate, take it easy at first. if you're not used to it, it can be a bit of a laxative (took me by surprise, at least).
posted by andrew cooke at 7:05 AM on November 17, 2004

Check out Wellbutrin.

Also i once ate some chocolate covered coffee beans and they turned out to be some pretty strong shit.
posted by Recockulous at 7:35 AM on November 17, 2004

I had a serious caffeine jones several years ago. You could measure my daily coffee intake in gallons. What I discovered is that at some point I was getting a paradoxical reaction to caffeine. It was making me sleepy.

I'd have a cup of joe, feel a little effect for perhaps half an hour, then I had to fight to stay awake. And I suspect the brief and weak stimulation I got was entirely placebo - I was conditioned to think "I just had coffee so I must feel less tired". I became one of those people that could drink a huge cup of coffee just before going to bed. Of course my response to all this was to drink more coffee. A very vicious cycle. I suspect you may be at that point now.

It took me about two weeks of pretty bad withdrawal quitting cold turkey: splitting headaches and bad constipation and I slept about 12 hours a day. But it was well worth it, although you probably should consider a weaning approach. I swore off caffeine completely for about a year, then went to my current limit of two cups a day.
posted by TimeFactor at 7:39 AM on November 17, 2004

Please stay off the excedrin or other NSAIDs. Chronic use will iritate your stomach and can give you stomach ulcers.

The money's still out on coffee and kidney stones, I think; some say coffee causes calcium loss from bones, but coffee also has a diuretic effect, which is usually stone-preventive.
posted by gramcracker at 8:33 AM on November 17, 2004

Because I am compelled to bust the "espresso has more caffeine" myth where ever I see it, I must present this link
I love coffee and am also highly tolerant of caffeine - but if you are getting most of your coffee in espresso form and you need more "juice" - i'd highly reccomend switching to drip.
posted by Wolfie at 8:35 AM on November 17, 2004

Grod, I too am a caffeine head: for me, a double espresso is a soothing drink before bed. I managed to break my caffeine junkie jag last year before a vacation, and since I got back I've found I was getting through a smaller quantity of coffee beans weekly. A double shot every 12 hours keeps me nicely in trim. The real trick is not to ramp up your intake when you hit a busy patch in your work.

I don't think there are legal or safe drugs that act as the same kind of stimulant only more so. I have tried a few and they are expensive, sources and quality are unreliable, and anyone of good sense can see they would never want to become dependent on them to be functional.
posted by zadcat at 9:33 AM on November 17, 2004

Take some kind of multi-vitamin every day with a large percentage of vitamin B and you will be a-ok.
posted by xammerboy at 9:48 AM on November 17, 2004

Like ashbury said, mate is a great replacement for coffee. You'll probably only be able to find it at natural food stores, though. It takes a while to switch to it from coffee, but once you've adjusted, your body will thank you for it.
posted by cmonkey at 10:04 AM on November 17, 2004

i am currently under treatement for an ulcer, from overuse of advil (ibuprofen) - it's an NSAID. watch out for those. my pal who is a doc is so leery of NSAIDs that he put himself on Prilosec for 2 weeks so he could take advil for pain after jaw surgery. (Prilosec stops stomach acid production, thus making it safer to take NSAIDs.) And as far as i've read, stopping stomach acid production doesn't seem to actually hurt you... although i would imagine you wouldn't want to do it forever...

re. kidneystones; it also depends on what type of stone you have - there are 2 main types, and they have different dietary risk factors. i had one a few years ago, they went in and blasted it, but forgot to grab a fragment, so i still don't know what kind i have. sigh... anyway, just ease back on coffee, and drink more water.
posted by chr1sb0y at 10:30 AM on November 17, 2004

Response by poster: I take a multi-vitamin every day. Full disclosure, I also consmue (as perscribed) a total of 60mg of methylphenidate per day for ADD so I'm not interested in adding amphetamines . Welbutrin gives me hypertension. I take zoloft for depression.
Mate looks interesting, I'm going to give it a try.
chr1sb0y: I live on ibuprofen, please don't go scaring me about it. ibuprofen, pseudoephedrine, caffeine, and my perscriptions are almost enough to make me feel nearly pain free and almost alert for a few hours. Probably not the best breakfast, though.
posted by Grod at 11:24 AM on November 17, 2004

Response by poster: s/consmue/consume;
posted by Grod at 11:32 AM on November 17, 2004

my pal who is a doc is so leery of NSAIDs that he put himself on Prilosec for 2 weeks so he could take advil for pain after jaw surgery.
NSAIDs are also proven to have other positive side effects, such as reduction of cancer and reduced risk of heart attack. Like anything else, it's a matter of weighing the importance of the negatives and positives.
posted by jmd82 at 11:52 AM on November 17, 2004

posted by advil at 11:55 AM on November 17, 2004

I've done a couple caffiene cold turkey periods. My one recommendation if you decide to take that route is to go cold turkey when you have at least 3 days of down time (start friday night of a long weekend or when you go on a weeks vacation). I'm completely useless the first day both from lack of energy and the shakes and not much better day two. By day three I can function but woe be the person who so much as says "good day" in too cheery of a voice.
posted by Mitheral at 11:56 AM on November 17, 2004

First the good advice:
Grod, if you're taking 60 mg of ritalin a day, and you're still feeling tired, you may be devloping a tolerance to the methylphenidate. Try upping the dose a little bit (and alerting your MD)--if that doesn't work, you may want to switch to adderall, which also stimulates the peripheral nervous system.

Cut back on the caffeine. It sounds like you've reached a level of dosage where you've saturated the enzymes that break down caffeine--you've caused a pileup at the biological bottleneck. Don't go cold turkey, though... taper down slowly. If you've been using a ton of caffeine for a long period of time, you're probably getting much lower quality sleep than you should. Restless nights = restless days.

Please make an appointment with your prescribing MD.

Caffeine is an alkaloid (which means it's slightly alkaline), and the inside of your stomach is full of a strong acid, HCl. If you can neutralize the acid (baking soda and/or an H2 blocker/PPI ), you'll get better absorption. Cytochrome p450 is responsible for metabolizing the caffeine--and the action of p450 is blocked by grapefruit juice. You can also potentiate benzodiazepines with grapefruit juice.

Ephedra + Ritalin will make you feel like shit. I know this for a fact.
posted by LimePi at 1:55 PM on November 17, 2004

I was recently given samples of Provigil, an anti-narcolepsy prescription drug, though I just get tired in the afternoons nd am not narcoleptic.
posted by billsaysthis at 3:50 PM on November 17, 2004

Chew coca leaves. Where you get them is up to you.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:54 PM on November 17, 2004

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