How long does it take for caffeine withdrawal symptoms to go away?
January 17, 2006 6:47 PM   Subscribe

I am currently going through caffeine withdrawal. I have gone for three days without any caffeine and still feel bad. I don't have headaches, I am just fatigued, irritable, foggy headed and unhappy. Has anyone else gone through this? How long before you started feeling normal again?
posted by Sonny Jim to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How many cups of coffee per day were you doing? Its recomended that you drop one cup per day.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:54 PM on January 17, 2006

I go through caffeine withdrawal in the form of headaches if I go without coffee for a couple of days. I usually repair this by just having a coffee or a glass of Coke, sometimes in combination with a Tylenol if the headache's really painful. If there's some reason you need to completely stay off caffeine, and can't just yourself off by gradually cutting down on your intake, I'd recommend drinking plenty of water. Stay nice and hydrated. On those few occasions when I've been off the stuff for longer periods at a time, a little Tylenol and lots of water helped a lot, and the withdrawal symptoms (for me) didn't last more than a few days.
posted by Gator at 6:55 PM on January 17, 2006

As a connection to this question, I feel the same if I haven't had a coke/soda in a day. I don't drink much coke, perhaps one or two glasses of Diet Coke per day, but I can really tell when I haven't had one. I don't seem to have a reaction to it otherwise, so should I try and 'quit' caffeine or is it pretty harmless/pointless in such a small dose?

(FWIW, I cut sugar out of my diet at one point, and it took, oh, about two weeks for the cravings to stop.)
posted by wackybrit at 7:00 PM on January 17, 2006

I used to drink three to five cups of coffee a day. I am of small stature so this was quite a bit for me. I cut back my intake gradually by half a cup a day and this was quite effective when it came to avoiding the caffeine headaches. It's just this general malaise that is still bothering me.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:06 PM on January 17, 2006

I meant to say "can't just wean yourself off" up there. Sigh. Going to bed now.
posted by Gator at 7:07 PM on January 17, 2006

Sonny Jim - it usually takes me a week or two.

My body *loves* caffeine and will complain, complain, complain about it if it's not given coffee.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:08 PM on January 17, 2006

I had a friend who ate a Hersey's Kiss when feeling especially horrible. She said it took the edge off a little and broke the coffee ritual. Sounds placebo-like to me, but couldn't hurt. What about a Motrin or other painkiller that contains a little caffeine?
posted by lalalana at 7:12 PM on January 17, 2006

When I gave up caffeine (cold-turkey) for a couple weeks, the first three days were the worst -- everything you described, plus awful headaches. It started to clear up over the next few days, and then pretty much went away after a week had passed.

I work by myself from home, so I just took naps and avoided people when I wasn't feeling up to it. But it was a loooooot of naps.
posted by occhiblu at 7:16 PM on January 17, 2006 [2 favorites]

Two weeks.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:18 PM on January 17, 2006

Haven't done it personally, but 2 weeks is the standard answer. This is true of several addictive substances.
posted by knave at 7:30 PM on January 17, 2006

I love coffee but I've noticed that if I have breakfast in the morning instead of coffee, that craving goes away.

Don't do it cold turkey if you drink a lot of it. Also make sure to keep well hydrated, drink lots of water.
posted by eatcake at 7:37 PM on January 17, 2006

Cold turkey off coffee never worked for me, either -- had to give it up gradually, and replace it with less potent/acidic forms of caffeine (in my case, a cup of tea in the morning, and a little chocolate in the afternoon).
posted by scody at 7:47 PM on January 17, 2006

Teeccino, a so-called herbal coffee, isn't bad. It's not a replacement for coffee, but it's better than tea and it helps with the ritual habit. Without it, there was no not-awake / awake signal.

It's been three weeks since I kicked my one cup (wimp) habit, and I'm still not happy about it. The withdrawal is not as bad now, but I'm convinced I was smarter, prettier, and a generally all-around better person with caffeine. The worst of the fogginess was gone after a week. I've read it takes as many as three months to be completely back to normal. Good luck.
posted by arabelladragon at 7:52 PM on January 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

I quit a 2liter/day soda habit about a year and a half ago. Not a drop since. I still dream about drinking coke every once and a while...
posted by roue at 8:00 PM on January 17, 2006

should I try and 'quit' caffeine or is it pretty harmless/pointless in such a small dose?

There is no pat answer to that. If isn't making you jumpy or irritable and you aren't having trouble sleeping, why worry about it?

To answer the original question, I've been told it can take six months to feel fully alert and normal without caffeine if you've been an addict. I am a caffeine head, and I believe it.
posted by zadcat at 8:13 PM on January 17, 2006

Sonny Jim, I've gone through this with coffee before and I feel your pain. Caffeine withdrawal gives me a terrible depression and this general malaise you're talking about. I had to give up coffee because coming off of the caffeine high would make me so depressed.

Drinking a lot of water helps, and maybe a can of coke. I usually recover from a cup of joe after a few days.
posted by hooray at 8:47 PM on January 17, 2006

I second two weeks (on those numerous times I've tried giving up -- usually post-university-exam periods). I also drank tea as a surrogate/low-dosage-alternative in the early stages to slowly wean myself off coffee. The small caffeine dosage seemed enough to keep the early-morning headache away (glad I'm not the only one who gets that).
posted by bright cold day at 8:49 PM on January 17, 2006

My experience seems similar to other peoples'. I wean myself off coffee periodically just to keep my habit from getting out of hand. I find that the "prompt" symptoms of withdrawal last for 2-3 days — headache, grogginess, etc.. The slower symptoms last for about two weeks, and they're more subtle: mild cravings and the like. I would find myself going to the coffee machine and starting to make a cup without ever consciously considering it. But after a couple of weeks that'd be gone too.

Tea is good for getting a little caffeine so you can let yourself down softly (and so's chocolate: it contains caffeine and theobromine). Herbal teas and decaf tea are nice for when you just want a hot drink to sip.
posted by hattifattener at 12:38 AM on January 18, 2006

I recently quit as well...I am well past two weeks and all the pain and irritability are gone (I weaned with weaker and weaker tea) but I still can't pull my shit together in the morning without it. Its getter better but its taking longer than I thought. For example: its 11:00 am and I have only just finished me email. Pathetic.
posted by anglophiliated at 3:11 AM on January 18, 2006

If you get drunk every night for the few days it takes to get over the withdrawal, you really won't notice the difference.
posted by JJ86 at 7:58 AM on January 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

I was able to quit caffeine by replacing it with exercise. Instead of a morning cup of coffee, I'd head to the gym and hit the elliptical machine for half an hour. On really difficult days, I'd have a small cup of green tea. Now I never touch the stuff. Well, ok ... a very occasional diet coke.
posted by TurkishGolds at 8:35 AM on January 18, 2006

This summer I gave up drinking Mountain Dew. For the past 10-15 years I was consuming between 3-6 cans daily. Due to undiagnosed headaches, my doctors said that I should totally cut out any caffeine. So after being really angry about the idea, I finally decided to do it.

I purposely took six weeks to slowly wean myself off the pop habit. For each of the six weeks, I limited my daily number of cans to one less than the previous week.

Now, five months later... I am still completely switched to water and milk only for beverages (okay, and once in awhile juice or ice tea)...

I asked my doctors why am I still feeling tired all the time? They answered that for some people the process of completely getting the body to adjust could take up to six months.
posted by chase at 4:56 PM on January 18, 2006

Well it's day five now and the worst of the symptoms seem to have passed. Day four the cravings really kicked in though. I'm hoping that the prognosis of two weeks is about right. I do intend to try to use exercise to get over it. Thanks for all your suggestions.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:59 PM on January 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

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