How Do I Break an Addiction to Caffiene?
January 3, 2005 10:05 AM   Subscribe

I am addicted to caffiene. Everytime I try to abandon my coffee, I get massive month-long migraines. Anyone have any suggestions for getting off of 20oz of Wawa coffee without causing migraines?
posted by moooshy to Food & Drink (25 answers total)
Either taper off, or deal with the headaches.

I've quit many times, from a 2 pot/day habit down to nothing. I start with a cup or two in the morning and afternoon the first day, down to a cup or two just in the morning, to just one cup in the morning, then skip a day, then one cup, then no more. If you feel a headache coming on, go ahead and have another cup.

Aspirin and chocolate might help, and I usually take a multi-vitamin every day.

Unfortunately, with a 2-year old, I always find myself starting again...
posted by bh at 10:18 AM on January 3, 2005

I asked this a year or so ago and got a lot of good suggesions.

Oddly, the only thing that really worked was time to get used to having less caffeine in my system. I found that tapering off was better than going cold turkey. Good luck!
posted by boomchicka at 10:19 AM on January 3, 2005

To ease off of caffeine, you might try mate vana, a "tea" made from Yerba Mate, which has a stimulant LIKE caffeine, but reportedly without the extreme jitteriness and subsequent crash. The tea shop I frequent swears by it, though I'm more partial to their black teas.
posted by aberrant at 10:21 AM on January 3, 2005

Lots and lots of water helps mute my caffeine withdrawal headaches.
posted by Mitheral at 10:26 AM on January 3, 2005

Ditto on the tapering off/weaning suggestion. Keep getting your coffee in the morning, but toss it when there's a little bit left the first week, a little bit more the second week, and so on. Or, fill it mostly with regular coffee and top it off with decaf. Each week, add less regular and more decaf until it's all decaf. Then, get it one day less each week, or get smaller sizes (decaf has a tiny bit of caffiene in it, which you can probably go off cold turkey without any problems). Whatever you do, don't try to go off coffee too fast or you'll get the headaches.
posted by AlisonM at 10:32 AM on January 3, 2005

I had this exact problem after exams once, and it was debilitating. I am now only slightly addicted to caffeine. It all depends on your level of tolerance for it - I like the little kick in the morning, and I like caffinated Cokes, so I deal with a slight two-caffinated-drinks-a-day habit. Tapering off is basically the only way, though. Cold Turkey will kill you. (Kill you in the sense that your brain will feel like it's going to explode, not, you know, literally.)
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:50 AM on January 3, 2005

And as you taper off, don't forget to factor in the caffeine in any soda you may be drinking. It can be significant, depending on your beverage of choice and amt consumed.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:50 AM on January 3, 2005

Could one start drinking good stuff, like OJ and herbal teas, but add in a pinch of powdered caffeine? Then you get used to consuming "lesser beverages", and then stop adding the kicker.

Two step weaning.

I don't really condone this, but I like the idea of perky OJ..
posted by Jack Karaoke at 11:25 AM on January 3, 2005

Now I've got nothing to back this up with, but 20oz of coffee/day does not seem terribly excessive. However, month long migraines from withdrawal do. I wonder if you don't have problems with migraines and that your coffee habit isn't just a form of caffeine self-medication.

I have no pertinent medical background but I thought it was worth tossing out for discussion.
posted by rtimmel at 11:52 AM on January 3, 2005

I'm a former Starbucks store manager and you could just imagine how addicted I was to caffine. I was working a shiatload of hours, starting at 5am. So I pounded coffee all day, used it as fuel, drank it like water. Over 10 mugs of the stuff a day. I'd get jittery if I wasn't drinking it.

When I left Sbux, I tried to taper off gradually, but it wasn't working for me. I still craved it. So I quit cold turkey. Withdrawl wasn't fun, headaches and the like ensued. Drank tons of water instead. I'll admit I felt like crap for a few weeks. What works for you will depend on your pain tolerance.

I've gone back to drinking coffee and pop, but no longer in mass quanities I once did.
posted by bawanaal at 11:58 AM on January 3, 2005

I quit drinking alcohol, caffeine and smoking at the same time in Summer of 2003 cold turkey. I drank LOTS of orange juice, spent a couple of days in tears on my couch and just shrugged it off. A lot of headaches were had, but I really felt the juice helped.
posted by Captaintripps at 12:00 PM on January 3, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks. I do have a migraine problem, but it seems to be exacerbated by the caffiene, even in small doses.

My thoughts are: if I'm stranded on a desert island and I don't have my caffiene one day, I will be SOL.

Thanks for the suggestions. I will try weaning and see how that goes.
posted by moooshy at 12:24 PM on January 3, 2005

Wait a minute, do you mean your migraines are "exacerbated" or "alleviated" by the caffeine? "Exacerbated" means "made worse".

I (thankfully) don't have migraines anymore, but when I did, as a child, they used to give me caffeine injections, and the doctor suggested that when I started getting the auras I should drink a cup of coffee. I believe I was 5 at the time.

If you really want to get off the caffeine, I would suggest tapering incredibly slowly--20 oz. day 1, 19.5 oz. day 2, 19 oz. day 3, etc. Buy the coffee, and pour out a bit before you drink it; pour out a bit more every day until you need to buy a smaller coffee, etc.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:50 PM on January 3, 2005

Oh! You didn’t mention that you have a tendency toward migraines. That changes my advice, then. Do you have prescription medicine for them? If not, it sounds as if your problem is severe enough to warrant getting some. In you particular case, I think you’ll be better served by a visit to your doctor than by our advice. A doctor experienced in migraine treatment should have an idea of how caffeine (and its removal) will affect you, and how to treat it.
posted by boomchicka at 12:52 PM on January 3, 2005

Since caffeine is often one of the most successful treatments of migraines, actually, you should ask your doctor about an alternate approach for treating them. [On preview, amen to boomchicka.]

And, if you find the quitting coffee debilitating, ask a shrink about medications. (Mmm, Effexor.)

I'm about to quit coffee again -- I'll tell ya, I was off the brown stuff for a couple years and it was incredibly rewarding. And, for most of us, doesn't take too long to detox and start springing out of bed in the morning. Really quite worth it, promise. Sounds like you have some tricky chemical balancing act going on there.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:55 PM on January 3, 2005

Alas, moooshy, many of these people cannot possibly understand the lure of Wawa and its many and delicious hot beverages. Good luck and godspeed.
posted by willpie at 1:16 PM on January 3, 2005

On the subject, there's a GREAT article about caffeine in National Geographic this month. I've got the issue here on my desk, bought solely for that article (then I find it online, d'oh!).
posted by mrbill at 1:30 PM on January 3, 2005

whoops, flubbed the url. try here.
posted by mrbill at 1:31 PM on January 3, 2005

Try the Yerba matte and see if it agrees with you and rebrew for that second cup and the third. plus it has nutrients, RDA

30% forCa. much smoother than coffee.
posted by hortense at 2:53 PM on January 3, 2005

Stay away from salty foods, too. Sudden salt load heightens chances for vascular headache.

I blended decaf and regular coffee together in ever inceasing amounts of decaf and it worked well. I am a migraine sufferer but the resulting caffeine-decrease headaches were easily managed with a single 200mg ibuprofen.
posted by bz at 3:28 PM on January 3, 2005

I quit coffee over a year ago, but I'm still not completely off caffeine. In the morning, I start the day with green tea or yerba mate, and late afternoon/evening, I have a cup of Earl Grey or chai. Replacing with tea, which has a smaller caff content and like mentioned above, leaves you mellower and less jittery, and sur[prisingly (I was doubtful at first) did the trick for me. I was a hard-core coffee drinker for almost 15 years, and now I can't drink it at all as it tweaks me beyond all reason. But the smell, I still savor. Like bx above, I have crushing migraines but have prescriptions and high-dose naproxen for that. Good luck!
posted by moonbird at 3:45 PM on January 3, 2005

I'm also quitting caffeine, as it's messing with my already disturbed sleep schedule.

I do half and half - half regular, half decaf - when I get drip coffee now. Or, a 'split shot' when I get an espresso drink. The tapering off method is working for me.

While it may not be as good as WaWa (and we lack said beast in Seattle, so I have no idea how it is), you could make your coffee at home. While I don't need the caffeine, I need the coffee, as I love the taste of the stuff. By making it at home, you;ll have more control of how much regular vs. decaf beans you brew with, and you'll save money as well.

Good luck.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:25 PM on January 3, 2005

As a neurologist/migraineur who has to have his 2 cups of coffee every morning, I have to say that I found
My thoughts are: if I'm stranded on a desert island and I don't have my caffeine one day, I will be SOL.
to be quite terrifying.

I wish I hadn't read that!

Seriously: the last time I tried to quit coffee was about 3 years ago. After about 6 weeks of migraine headaches and general demotivation/lethargy, I decided: to hell with it. But if I had to give up caffeine, I suspect I'd probably check out one of the prophylactic daily medicines available, such as propranolol or nortryptaline.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:45 PM on January 3, 2005

If you have a tendency towards migraines, do not go cold turkey. I actually have to carry caffeine pills with me when I travel, because withdrawal will almost inevitably bring on a completely crippling headache. Then again, I am particularly addicted.

Weaning yourself off is the only way, IMHO. Use alternative sources of caffeine (teas, cola, etc), or just caffeine in pill form. The latter lets you control the dose very effectively. Alternatively, you can go cold turkey up until you feel withdrawal symptoms, and then "treat" them with steadily decreasing doses of caffeine whenever they occur. This would certainly speed the quitting process, but if you're not aware how withdrawal will treat you, might be less pleasant as well.
posted by mek at 7:28 AM on January 4, 2005

Seems like you might want to consider reframing your issue. It appears that you suffer from a chronic condition, migraines, that you manage with a cheap, effective, available, (relative to other migraine tx) harmless, and dare I say, tasty, medication. You may want to work on regulating dosage, and you may want to change the delivery system to tea or pills, but why to you want to stop taking the medication? I have high blood-pressure which I medicate daily. I would be a drag to be stranded on a desert island without my medication, but that is no reason to stop taking it now.
posted by rtimmel at 8:21 AM on January 4, 2005

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