I wish coffee would last forever
March 28, 2011 7:59 AM   Subscribe

I only ever feel right when I have caffeine - properly focused and able to function. This is a lifetime thing not temporary withdrawal. What can I do?

I've always found it hard to focus and stay on topic and find it hard to get things together...have a tendency to daydream a bit as well.

It's not just that coffee gives me a boost, people who know me would agree that I'm a bit less able to function than others in certain ways and when I have coffee I realise what I'm missing. I've been the same since childhood and had many periods without caffeine so it's not issues to do with stopping.

The problem is that it's a highly addictive drug, and I find it hard to control how much I drink, and it loses it's effect making me tired and uncomfortable. I'm pretty healthy and would rather not have it.

I know that it's main effect is on dopamine, so wondering if I could have a long term slight deficiency.

I'm very keen to hear ideas of what I can do and stories from people who've had the same issues.

I'm into personal development and have done various kinds of therapy and release work. Not saying there's nothing more to do, but certainly all the low hanging fruit are gone...it's not a case of learning to concentrate or whatever.

I have my own ways of working around things as well, so I do want to hear more...but I want to find a way to feel more like I do when I've had a coffee. It's like night and day. My life would be so much better if I had a bit of the caffeine focus in it.

I don't really want to go to a doctor as even if drugs were a good idea which I question, I doubt if I could get seen properly in the UK about this as I am surviving and working.

So would be great to hear about supplements or any other ideas you have and your stories about it.

posted by Not Supplied to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you are self-medicating for ADD.

Talk to your doctor about it.

Of course, the likely treatment for ADD is an even more powerful stimulant than caffeine.
posted by empath at 8:15 AM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Have you ever been off caffeine completely for a long period of time? I find it hard to function without caffeine because I am addicted to it. I've been completely caffeine-free for years at a time, though, and during those periods I'm completely alert and functional without it. For me there is a significant withdrawal period of a week to ten days, but after that I'm fine.
posted by something something at 8:25 AM on March 28, 2011

Yes it is a an attention defecity type thing, but it would be hard to get seen on the NHS about it...and if I push for it like you say would probably lead to the mainstream drugs which I'm pretty sure wouldn't be a good idea.

Not that I'm against all drugs they just seem quite heinous.
posted by Not Supplied at 8:25 AM on March 28, 2011

Have you ever been off caffeine completely for a long period of time?

Yes, for very long periods. This was also a problem when I was a kid before I'd ever had a regular habit.
posted by Not Supplied at 8:26 AM on March 28, 2011

Is ephedra legal in the UK? I found it tremendously useful for helping me concentrate (I have ADD, as well) before they took it off the market in the US.
posted by empath at 8:35 AM on March 28, 2011

Well, this is showing up in the related questions, in case you didn't notice it. All the standard stuff: exercise, get enough sleep, exercise, healthy diet, exercise.

As far as it being difficult to control how much caffeine you intake, you could try caffeine pills instead of coffee or tea. That won't help with the tolerance problem, but at least you'd be able to know exactly how much you were taking.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:36 AM on March 28, 2011

Caffeine is a low-side-effect drug, and coffee has some health benefits. I prefer to manage my caffeine use. 1 cup 1st thing, and another cup on the way to work. Possibly a 3rd cup before noon. No caffeine after 2 p.m. If I see that I am ratcheting up to a daily 3rd cup, I make a point of reducing.

If you choose to eliminate it, I'd try substituting some exercise 1st thing, and some extra water. If the exercise is outdoors, so that you get some sunshine, all the better.

I saw Mehmet Oz, probably on Today or some other show that I might have on while getting my 1st cup., and he was specific about reducing light exposure (laptop screen, reading lamp, teevee) by 10 p.m. or earlier, to allow melatonin to do its thing. I'm far from ready to give up my coffee as well as being rather skeptical about teevee health advice, but he had some research to back up his recommendations. Getting adequate sleep would probably be very helpful, and it would be worthwhile to look at regulating your circadian rhythms to optimize feeling alert in the morning.
posted by theora55 at 8:41 AM on March 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think going off completely isn't really useful. I've decaffinated myself several times, and now have 1 big cup in the morning and that keeps me going for the day. Try cutting back slowly, and seeing how you do. But as an addiction, I think it's fairly benign. YMMV.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:59 AM on March 28, 2011

After reading a hint, perhaps on MeFi, I discovered that a small amount of coffee is as effective as a monster one. About 1/4 cup is all it takes.

Start with 1/4 cup and gradually reduce (or increase) the amount to find the minimum dose that works for you.

Also, I get a stronger effect if I drink coffee a sip at a time -- perhaps one per minute.
posted by KRS at 9:05 AM on March 28, 2011

Have you looked into possible dietary deficiencies? Reading your post, the first thing to pop into my head was amino acid supplementation, such as d-or-l-phenylalanine or tyrosine, both of which, I believe, boost dopamine production and other catecholamine neurotransmitters. Helpful books on amino acid supplementation: Mood Cure, The Healing Nutrients Within and Depression Free Naturally.
posted by flamk at 9:17 AM on March 28, 2011

Be more organized; do the most important stuff you have to do in the morning while under caffeine's influence. Stop drinking coffee at a certain time in the early afternoon. Expect lack of focus in the late afternoon/evening and adjust your work accordingly. Kill all screens about an hour before going to sleep. Maximise morning light; open all curtains etc. That way you will have a burst of energy and focus in the morning and if you are ready and organized, you can use this for your advantage.
posted by leigh1 at 9:22 AM on March 28, 2011

I came in here to suggest ADHD. You sound like me before I got diagnosed: difficulty concentrating and "getting things together." And I know exactly that focussed feeling that caffeine gives a person who has ADHD.

I would suggest just going ahead and getting screened. You say it would be "hard" to get seen, but is it impossible? If not, then do what it takes to get your screening. Just getting the diagnosis doesn't require you to take the drugs - it just helps you know what you're working with so you can make an informed decision.

And about those drugs: I also resisted a diagnosis for years, partly because I was reluctant to take amphetamines. But frankly, the super-low-dose of Ritalin I now take is so much more effective than caffeine ever was and has so many fewer side effects (for me, at least). There are also non-amphetamine drugs you can take, as well as non-pharmaceutical interventions you can look into. But you can only start down that road if you have a diagnosis.

Also, if you haven't already, I'd suggest checking out this mega-AskMe thread about ADHD and the metatalk follow-up. These are the threads that finally got my butt to the doctor to get screened.
posted by lunasol at 9:30 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also dropped in to suggest ADHD. I was diagnosed 4 months ago. Adderall has improved my life significantly.
posted by Ratio at 10:01 AM on March 28, 2011

Get checked for add/adhd.!,
I am addicted/dependent on caffeine and I am quite fine with that. Ever since I was a child I drank ice tea, no milk and started drinking black coffee at 12 daily. So far, no issues and I don't plan on changing a damn thing.
but if you want to wean off, caffeine pills are great as you can titrate the dose over the course of two weeks to avoid withdrawls. You may find your life better without it, or you may be like me and just love coffee tea and caffeine. Really its a benign drug as far as health risks but the withdrawls in my opinion are a bitch compared to opiates as the headaches are really bad for about two weeks.
posted by handbanana at 10:15 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also wanted to add amphetamines are like a super charged coffee, but they also run into the tolerance problem. They can certainly help, and it wouldn't hurt to read up on them. I've always enjoyed them for when I really need to get shit done, but they can lead to a crash and have some potential side effects.
posted by handbanana at 10:20 AM on March 28, 2011

Thanks for the answers. I've had a read and looked at a symptoms list and there's not one I don't tick for attention defecit so I guess I've 'got it', but what now is the thing.

I'll have to fight hard to get a gp to refer me to a specialist and I would but just dunno what it will do for me...I get this diagnosis and then have to get on with it anyway. There's meds but I don't know about being dependent on this stuff and feeling worse if I have to go off it or want to live in another country.

Sorry, thinking about this is a bit new. I didn't really think I had this condition full on until I read the spot on descriptions, how it affects people's lives etc.

Thanks for the caffeine tips as well if I am going to self medicate.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:43 AM on March 28, 2011

I was the same way. Got screened for ADHD, and now take Dexedrine for it.

Yes, it is a more powerful stimulant than caffeine, with its own tolerance issues and side effects. However, I find it much preferable to caffeine, because I find that the stimulant helps the ADHD a lot more, but with less side effects than the caffeine.

The important thing I now have to remember is to stay off caffeine when I'm on it. Because all I get are the side effects now, and not the benefits.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:02 AM on March 28, 2011

There's meds but I don't know about being dependent on this stuff and feeling worse if I have to go off it or want to live in another country

I'm not dependent on my ADHD medication. I don't take it every day, as I don't want to work up a tolerance. There's no withdrawal; I'm just my pre-medication scattered self (although not as scattered as I used to be, thanks to good habits I've learned). Not like your current drug of choice, caffeine, which I had to have every morning or else I was groggy and had a pounding headache.

As far as what you would do if you want to live in another country: you're borrowing trouble. If you do decide to take medication and then do decide to move then would be a good time to come to AskMe and find out if your medication is available in your destination, and if not, what to do. Don't put off receiving medical care now because of a possible move overseas in the future.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:36 AM on March 28, 2011

stark. raving. mad. mommy. just posted about getting a proper ADHD diagnosis and medication after self-medicating with caffeine since she was a teenager.
posted by not that girl at 11:52 AM on March 28, 2011

Go to your doctor and get your thyroid levels checked . You could be low on the hormone.
posted by majortom1981 at 12:15 PM on March 28, 2011

Been off ADHD meds since the minute I found out I was pregnant. Not hard. Not dependent on them at all. I have much better habits and self-esteem after being properly medicated for a couple of years, even though I'm without the meds now.

Found getting off coffee harder! Still struggling with it even though the side effects really bother me! Crazy, right?
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:09 PM on March 28, 2011

If you want to know where to go in the UK, memail me. But please check this with your GP first to make sure it isn't something else like your thyroid, or some other weird thing.

Please do not take ephedra. It's far more unsafe than caffeine or prescription stimulants, which in any case we can't be sure would be recommended to you.

Amphetamines are not really like super charged coffee. They're more like, you know when you have a basil plant and it's wilting because you didn't water it and the leaves are all shrivelled? And then you water it and you can practically hear it say "Aaah!" and it draws itself up to its full height and the leaves become full and green again? That's what they're like.

It's quite rare to build up a tolerance for prescription stimulants because of the timespan of the active dose. It happens, but it's very rare. By contrast, with caffeine you're almost certain to build up a tolerance. It has some place in managing ADHD, but really, it's a bit rubbish on its own. Prescription stimulants are not "heinous", they're among the most well-studied and safe drugs imaginable when taken under supervision.

But we don't even know if you have ADHD or if it's treatment levels or what. You really need to establish what your problem actually is before you start ruling out (or in) any specific way of treating it.
posted by tel3path at 4:05 PM on March 28, 2011

Sorry, thinking about this is a bit new. I didn't really think I had this condition full on until I read the spot on descriptions, how it affects people's lives etc.

I totally understand this. I resisted diagnosis and treatment for a long time for similar reasons to you. I've been on the meds for a year with literally no negative side effects (once I found the right one - I did have a month on a different med that wasn't the best for me, but even that wasn't so bad). I regularly go off for a day or a week and have never experienced withdrawal. Unless you have a history of addiction, there's little reason to believe it will turn you into an addict or a zombie.

Here's a story:

I move a lot. I've actually moved houses 15 times in the 10 years since I graduated from college. I'm getting ready for another move next weekend (my first move since starting the meds), and spent the weekend packing. I was talking to my mother on Sunday night and mentioned I was almost done packing. She was completely and totally shocked. I didn't think it was a big deal - after all, I'm working all week and won't have much time to pack during the week, so the alternative would be to stay up all night Friday packing. My mom very diplomatically suggested that's what she would have expected me to do, and I realized she was right.

In the old days, I would have faffed around for weeks, trying to pack but getting frustrated and putting it off until the last moment. This time, I realized I needed to do most of my packing this weekend and just did it. This is really pretty amazing for me and never would have happened pre-treatment, no matter how much coffee I drank. If this sounds familiar to you, I would really suggest you consider medication.
posted by lunasol at 4:17 PM on March 28, 2011

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