Should I drink coffee again?
March 31, 2012 10:28 AM   Subscribe

poll: should I drink coffee? After 10 years of being a caffeine addict (started when I was 16!), I quitted in January, cold turkey. No coffee, no diet cokes, no energy drinks. It sucked, a lot, for about two weeks. All I get now is an occasional cup of white or green tea, that's it. This week has been unusually exhausting, and the next three days are probably going to be the most testing of my life. I am really tempted to drink coffee, but will it actually help? Will it just fxxx me up? Will I become addicted again?
posted by atetrachordofthree to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You will totally just become addicted again, if my life experience is anything to go by. I finally quit last week for real, forever, because I'd go through the quit-> have a rough week-> have "just one"-> have ALL THE CAFFEINE -> quit cycle every single time.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:31 AM on March 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

As you may already know, both white and green tea contain caffeine.
posted by box at 10:31 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

OMG, just take a decent multi-vitamin 2x per day!

I say this as someone who abused coffee, loves coffee, and has occasionally had energy problems.

Even if you think you eat healthy, just try this.

You're welcome!
posted by jbenben at 10:39 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I quit last July or August -- not cold turkey; I weaned myself off slowly. I actually have found it startlingly easy to do without. But one of the nice aspects of having quit is that, when I really need it, caffeine is EFFECTIVE. I still haven't had a cup of real coffee. When I do need the boost, I add a splash to a cup of decaf, or else have a cup of black tea.

I think my advice is: stick to black tea. You'll be surprised how well it works, but it's not enough to get you all jittery. And it'll avoid triggering any psychological addiction you may have had to coffee.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:41 AM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

keep with your white and green tea. make sure your meals are pre-prepped as much as they can be, and healthy. while your teas have caffeine, going back to what i assume is your first caffeine love, coffee, will make it harder to regulate it after a stressful time.

you might want to keep in mind that while part of you is doing "exhaustion, must have caffeine!" part of you is probably doing "stressful times, where's my crutch?!" - that first one is fine in the short term. that second one will keep convincing you to have more coffee.

(hello, my name is nadawi and i'm caffeine addict - drinking a red bull right this second and wondering if i'm having iced coffee today too)
posted by nadawi at 10:42 AM on March 31, 2012

Is drinking coffee over the next few days going to make them so much more bearable that it's worth doing two+ weeks of caffeine withdraws again?
posted by Garm at 10:42 AM on March 31, 2012

I drank a lot of coffee for a long time, and then stopped. When I started again, I had pretty severe GI and other related problems from the caffeine. However, I can drink "non-caffeinated" tea and coffee, despite that they have small amounts of caffeine. YMMV.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:44 AM on March 31, 2012

I was hooked to caffeine all through undergrad and the past two years of grad school, especially to Starbucks Doubleshots -- I'd drink 2 of those a day sometimes, in addition to other caffeinated drinks.

However, I decided to quit abruptly, back in January. It's the end of March now and though I've had a few caffeinated drinks since January, it's literally been at the rate of one a week, even less. I usually end up drinking something (one doubleshot, most of the time) on my busiest day of the week when I NEED to get stuff done and seriously can't afford to walk around like a zombie.

It hasn't made me addicted again or want to drink caffeine everyday at all. And quite frankly, I'm also not interested in going back to that habit, so I make sure to have water or crystal light available and keep myself busy with that. Willpower!
posted by joyeuxamelie at 10:45 AM on March 31, 2012

A little tip from the larger recovery experience: You can't say you "were" a caffeine addict. You still are. The fact that you aren't consuming coffee and you're successfully using moderation with tea doesn't mean you aren't still an addict. I know you probably mean addict in a light-hearted way but the fact that you fuckin' loved coffee was true before and is true now.

Your question really should be if you will relapse. And yes, you probably will. Luckily, caffeine is a pretty mild vice.
posted by chairface at 10:57 AM on March 31, 2012

The best thing about not drinking much caffeine is how great it is then when it's needed -- wow. (Not that I'd know now; drinking a coffee as I key this in, but I have stopped/started any number of times) I remember once, on a driving trip, I was totally exhausted, and falling asleep, crabby, actually dangerous behind the wheel; I pulled into a conv store and bought one of those small can double shot espresso and it about blew me out of my pickup; it was great. And not just awake but buoyant, as only caffeine can do. Yeah, you'll have to walk through it again, getting off of it, but if you're only on it a short time it'll be an easy kick.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:58 AM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

nicotine is the most addictive substance known.
caffeine is number two. ahead of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:00 AM on March 31, 2012

I've never noticed caffeine to give me a boost in performance or whatever, except if I have a deadline and have to write late into the evening, but even then, I might have had a coffee late in the afternoon (I usually don't) so the mental clarity and boost to stamina is more of a pleasant surprise than anything else. Even then, popping an Advil (my doctor said it's okay) provides more of a noticeable effect in altering mood and erasing brain fog (I suffer from weather-related headaches and lethargy, especially at the beginning of fall and the beginning of spring) so you might try that instead.

In short, don't seek out caffeine to alleviate a problem. If you're going to consume caffeine, do it because of the taste. I'm very particular about what I drink. Coke is gross. I have my favourite variety of black tea, and shun others. I consider buying a drip coffee from Starbucks to be a waste of money.

It has to be about the taste and the experience, rather than the chemistry.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:21 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

nicotine is the most addictive substance known.
caffeine is number two. ahead of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

[citation please]. It takes only a few days for the receptors in your body that respond to caffeine to return to baseline after withdrawal within a few days or a week according to this

You might have coffee this week to get through, crash and feel crappy afterward, but I think you could go back to no coffee without huge problems. You might try taking other forms of caffeine which may be less psychologically triggering but will still give you the desired stimulant effect.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:22 AM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been through a similar process. My anecdata: once I've fully quit (and it takes two full weeks of abstention before I stop feeling the lack) I can have one cup of coffee in a week without finding it difficult to stop myself from having more. I don't make it a habit though ("It's Monday, time for coffee!"), usually I drink it if I'm eating something that would go well with some coffee.

On the other hand, I can drink tea, even large amounts of strong black tea, without falling into the ever-increasing-habituation spiral. So presumably there's something else in coffee that makes things worse for me, besides the caffeine. (There are a lot of other active compounds in coffee.) But colas, on the first hand again, affect me like coffee does.

My advice is, three days of difficulty is too long to get through on stimulants. Concentrate on sleep, hydration, and and nutrition. Coffee on top of that might help, but probably not as much as it feels like it will.
posted by hattifattener at 11:34 AM on March 31, 2012

I think it depends on why you quit. I quit because I tend to have (at least) chronic low-level anxiety and the caffeine wasn't helping any. When I have some coffee now, I'm more sensitive to the caffeine and the physical manifestations of anxiety it induces are pretty clear.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:40 AM on March 31, 2012

I agree that in terms of addictions/withdrawal, caffeine isn't that harsh - it may in fact be the 2nd most addictive substance, but the withdrawal is a lot less harsh than heroin/cocaine/etc.

So, in terms of the next few weeks of stress, you may be able to get through it with caffeine, and then come out the other side and be able to kick your habit again. That might actually be the most effective way of dealing with the next three days of stress. in terms of the amount of time it will take to deal with stress.

However, after you leave this stressful period, you should look for better ways to deal with stress in the future. Exercise, meditation, yoga, talking with friends, etc. Then, the next time you have a trying period, rely on these to help reduce stress, rather than coffee.
posted by baniak at 11:53 AM on March 31, 2012

I'm pregnant right now, and in the beginning nausea stages I couldn't bear to have anything warm, including my daily huge cup of coffee. After being off of caffeine for four months, I decided to try some yesterday after a couple nights of little sleep. I expected it to be super effective, but it didn't help. What did help was a workout - it made me feel more energetic and helped to burn off some stress.

Obviously, this is just my experience, but if you've made it this far and you had good reasons to stop with all the caffeine, then there's no reason to let a few rough days get you back in the habit.
posted by smalls at 12:01 PM on March 31, 2012

As a recently-recovered caffeine addict (gave up diet soda for Lent, but still enjoying the occasional cup of coffee of or tea), I have to agree with some of the previous posters that coffee now might lead to relapse. However, having just consumed a medium Dunkin' Donuts coffee, I must admit that the caffeine is much more potent now that I'm no longer taking it in regularly.

Addressing your specific situation now and considering you were able to quit cold turkey, you seem like you have the discipline to limit yourself to drinking coffee just for these three days, but I think I prefer jbenben's idea of taking multivitamins. No risk of relapse plus additional all-around health benefits... sounds like the best option to me!
posted by constellations at 12:23 PM on March 31, 2012

Okay, you've gotta distinguish actual physical addiction ("My body and brain don't work right without this stuff! My head hurts and my skin is crawling and I'm groggy and confused and I can't see straight!") from ordinary garden-variety temptation to indulge.

Coffee's actually pretty mild as a physical addiction. Having been addicted to, and quit, all three at various points, my experience is that caffeine withdrawal is way lighter than withdrawal from nicotine or amphetamines. You feel a little crappy for a few days and then you start to feel better. It's no picnic, but anyone can get through it if they want to.

The hard part about quitting caffeine is just that the temptation is always there. Coffee is everywhere. It's always socially appropriate, at any hour of the day, in any situation. Your office probably gives it out for free. (Imagine trying to quit smoking if there was a carton of free cigs in the break room, and you were allowed to light up anywhere you wanted!) Your friends all drink it, and even if you tell them you're quitting, they still forget and offer to bring you a cup. And it's awfully tasty, too... Unless you establish a firm habit of saying "no," it's easy to slide back into saying "yes" all the time.

So I guess the question is, how's your willpower? Me, I hate resisting temptation, so it's easiest just to set a "never drink coffee" policy and not even ever let myself be reminded how much I like the stuff. (I even avoid decaf! It just reminds me how much better I like the real thing!) But if you're okay at resisting temptation, and you just want to avoid having to go through the two-days-of-headaches cold turkey withdrawal thing.... well, then, okay, have a cup of coffee today. Just don't have another cup tomorrow (and another the day after, and...) and you'll be fine.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:57 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sure, it might help you get through the next three days, although that could depend on what makes them hard for you and what kind of help you think you need.

Caffeine is a pretty benign addiction. Other than the fact that you felt you were dependent on caffeine, was it a problem? Did it adversely affect your life? How willing are you to risk re-developing a caffeine habit, and then either continuing with it or having to quit again? Like restless_nomad, I think you will lapse back into old habits.

Basically this is a question of how important it is for you to have some assistance getting through the next few days vs. how important it is for you to not be addicted to caffeine.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:11 PM on March 31, 2012

There isn't anything wrong with avoiding the caffeine. There also isn't anything wrong with drinking it, even if you again start drinking it every day. Caffeine is an extremely minor vice shared by hundreds of millions of people. Or possibly billions.
posted by Justinian at 2:55 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been off coffee for a couple of months now. The other day I had a headache I just couldn't get rid of, so I broke down and took 2 Excedrin Migraine (has 130 mg. of caffeine, within the one cup of coffee range.) Killed the shit out of that headache, but boy did I feel the caffeine like I hadn't felt it in a long time. Lots of energy, great mood, etc.

So yeah, you'd probably get a big boost from the caffeine. That said, it could re-trigger your coffee habit, particularly if you do it several days running.

If you're worried about having to go through caffeine withdrawal again, you can always taper off by replacing coffee with black tea for awhile, then gradually replacing the black tea with green or white. That's how I got off coffee this last time and didn't have a single noticeable withdrawal symptom. In the past I've gotten truly wicked headaches without my caffeine fix but not this time.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:02 PM on March 31, 2012

Drink coffee. It's lovely stuff.
posted by zadcat at 3:13 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Since you are still taking in caffeine (green tea contains more caffeine than coffee, even), I don't think you need to worry about the physiological addiction setting back in if you drink caffeinated drinks for the next three days. But if you make those drinks coffee, the danger is that your old habits will reestablish themselves in terms of ritual and psychological payoff. So I recommend that you get your caffeine hit for the next three days in another way that wasn't part of your former pattern. Caffeine pills, or energy drinks, or something that you don't really ENJOY in the same way you enjoyed coffee. Then it will be easier to leave aside again afterwards.
posted by lollusc at 6:33 PM on March 31, 2012

I have no advice or opinion on whether drinking coffee will cause a serious relapse, but I can tell you that I consume caffeine minimally, having quit it completely over a decade a go, and when I do indulge in something caffeinated, the result is rarely pleasant. Unlike the folks who get a boost and a smile from a caffeine fix, I get a sweaty, palpitation-y, teeth-gritty and unpleasant. If I have a bunch of caffeine any time after noon, I also will not sleep well--whether this is the caffeine itself, or the resultant anxiety brought on by all the physical symptoms related to it, I don't know. In the end, I am way more exhausted than I was to begin with. YMMV.

If I knew in advance I was going to be facing down a run of difficult days, I'd pamper myself in other ways: lots of sleep, all my favourite foods, some kind of awesome treat at the end as a pay-off.
posted by looli at 6:48 PM on March 31, 2012

I used to work graveyard shift at a Denny's, and I remember dealing with droves of college kids coming in during midterm and final seasons to drink coffee all night and study. I'll tell you what I told them -- you will do far better during your upcoming challenges if you stay well hydrated, well nourished, and well rested. Caffeine is a crutch, you'll get a burst of productivity (if you're lucky) and then you'll crash and be useless.
posted by hermitosis at 6:57 PM on March 31, 2012

If you decide to drink coffee again, buy really good (and expensive) stuff, freshly roasted, grind it yourself, prepare it in french press/moka pot/aeropress, and drink only one cup in the morning. It's a world of difference from Starbucks and it will give you better type of high.
I also recommend entering the wonderful world of quality loose leaf teas.
posted by leigh1 at 9:35 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could also try switching to a single shot of quality espresso.
But seriously, get into teas.
posted by leigh1 at 10:01 PM on March 31, 2012

If I wanted no chance of getting seduced by the tasty and ritualistic nature of coffee, I'd go with the pills or just make lots of green tea. With caffeine pills you can typically split them to get relatively modest 100mg doses so you can be gradual and not overdo it...there's also gum out there that comes in 100mg doses -- doesn't taste great since caffeine is bitter, but that could be a good thing if you don't want to be enticed by coffee. 200mg is typically considered "roughly a cup of coffee's worth" and there's been research that suggests that using 100mg doses once per hour as needed (up to six hours, obviously starting early in the day unless sleep is not a concern) is extremely safe but is also as effective for "enhancing" wakefulness and concentration during those six hours as a typical effective dose of amphetamines (think fighter pilots and "go-pills").

Brewed coffee can wildly vary in caffeine concentration from one pot to the next while pills are obviously more consistent. I love my morning coffee and I also deal with mood issues including anxiety...on occasions a run-of-the-mill coffee jolt from my go-to coffee shop has pushed me a bit too far (think "I need to hide somewhere for awhile and breathe") and I suspect I was getting a higher-end-of-the-spectrum blast of caffeine.

B vitamin complex will help augment the effects of pure caffeine; this is not to say that it literally pairs up with caffeine and forms a dynamic duo, but they both push your energy level in the desired direction unless you've already pushed it too far (there is no true substitute for good and consistent sleep). Yeah, most of it will just make your pee yellow and more expensive, but I think it's a good combination and the energy drink industry agrees (though they do use some goofy/questionable ingredients and I wouldn't run around adding ginseng, for example, to caffeine personally). Sometimes I'll throw in Co-Enzyme Q10 for giggles. Caffeine pills + B vitamins are ridiculously cheap compared to Red Bull and other energy drinks, but you'll certainly want to stay hydrated since you're taking a concentrated diuretic.

Green tea of course comes with other benefits, especially if you drink a lot of it, like what it would take to approach the buzz provided by coffee. Among other things the tea contains L-theanine, which can help to mitigate general low-grade anxiety (whether produced solely by caffeine or existing circumstances). And you don't really have to worry too much about dehydrating yourself; each individual cup isn't that strong and the astringency will probably keep you chugging water during an extended session.
posted by aydeejones at 11:55 PM on March 31, 2012

Did your caffeine 'addiction' cause you any problems such as insomnia or uncomfortable fidgeting? Unless caffeine causes any sort of problem or the cost becomes too much (in which case, brew at home!), there's not really any reason to avoid caffeine if you tolerate it well and enjoy the taste.

Coffee is very, very good for you, and excepting the above possible problems or some other very rare side effects, there are no health concerns with heavy coffee and caffeine consumption. If you enjoy it, keep drinking it and don't worry.

No insomnia? no problem!
posted by imagineerit at 10:09 AM on April 1, 2012

Green and white teas can in theory have as much or more caffeine than coffee, but IME they never cause jitters and generally have a far, far milder effect. High quality greens and whites are very appealing when brewed lightly, coffee brewed lightly is just boring -- this may explain part of it.

For me, the difference between a 4oz cup of coffee, brewed optimally to taste, is approximately equal to five or six 10oz cups of sencha or chinese greens, in terms of the level of high you can get.

I'm generally very sensitive to caffeine, though, so I prefer to have no more than one 10oz cup of tea per day, but then it may be darjeeling which is a bit stronger than greens.
posted by rainy at 10:45 AM on April 1, 2012

For me, drinking coffee is as much about the taste and comfort as it is about the energy boost. I want to avoid getting withdrawal headaches and whatnot, so I've switched to decaf.

So could you drink decaf? That way you'd have the feeling of, "MMMM, coffee", without the anxiety of getting back into that addictive cycle.
posted by too bad you're not me at 1:37 PM on April 1, 2012

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