Caffeine withdrawal headaches: can you share your experience?
September 7, 2021 12:27 PM   Subscribe

I’ve given up caffeine and am having lots of headaches, which I understand is quite common. I’m wondering if you can tell me how long your headaches lasted, especially if you are a migraineur.

I’m a healthcare provider myself, so not looking for medical advice—just anecdata on others’ experiences.

I have a history of migraines with strong menstrual cycle links. My career as a nurse and midwife has meant a fairly heavy dependence on caffeine, which I’m cutting out in an attempt to help decrease headache frequency. It’s been a few days and I’m still getting headaches, though they are less severe and starting later in the day, and the fatigue I had initially is gone. Just wondering how long this lasted for others as it’s fairly debilitating and I am cautious about over-medicating and rebound headaches.

If it’s of any interest, I was drinking probably 6-8 espresso shots per day a couple months back, but reduced that to a 12 oz cup of coffee in the morning, and quit from there.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.
posted by stillmoving to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: For me, every time I quit caffeine full stop, I get headaches that increase in intensity for the first three days then plateau before more or less disappearing on the sixth day. Other symptoms like fatigue and weird sleep tend to last longer, well after the headache stage. I do get migraines, and I use coffee specifically to manage those when they happen, but my withdrawal headaches are not migraine-like at all.

FWIW none of this seems to be affected by how high my daily caffeine intake was before I went cold turkey -- I've done it quite a few times over the years starting from a pretty big range of baselines.
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 12:46 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: I used to get them when I would transition from college where soda was available for every meal and unlimited to home, where is was not. Usually lasted a day or two and I was back to normal. Of course I was aged 18-22, so all pains subsided much quicker. If it's like a hangover, then double or triple that the older you are.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:46 PM on September 7, 2021


Forgot to add: I don't get migraines, so this was all just consumption because I like soda.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:47 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: It takes exactly one week for me to detox from caffeine. It took a week when I was in my late teens, it took a week when I was in my 20s, it takes a week now in my 30s. It's always been one week.

Obviously I've never quit forever, I like caffeine and have no reason not to drink it, but sometimes needs must for travel/short term meds/whatever and it's always one full week and no more.
posted by phunniemee at 12:55 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: Whenever I give up caffeine it's usually three days of headaches and feeling fatigued.
posted by drezdn at 1:01 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: The detox takes about a week for me to stop getting the caffeiene withdrawal headaches, esepcially when I first wake up after a day without caffeine. The other caffeine side effects like reflux and sleep disruption clear in about half the time, it's the headaches that linger.

I have given into my caffeine dependancy because as I enter menopause my migraines (or at least the pre-migraine blindness auras) have become more frequent and daily caffeine seems to be a key preventative for me. By limiting my intake to twice a day with meals I have come to a balance of migraine prevention vs GERD avoidance.
posted by buildmyworld at 1:07 PM on September 7, 2021 [2 favorites]


Best answer: I gave up* caffeine for Lent a few years ago, and since I'm a migraine person, I was pretty shocked that I had almost no headaches. I didn't realize until well after I started drinking pop again that I had continue to eat chocolate during Lent, and the small amounts of caffeine in candy probably helped me.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:10 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: I've cut caffeine out only once for any extended period of time (due to GERD). Headaches lasted three days.
posted by Lescha at 1:10 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: Migraine/cluster headache person here! My caffeine withdrawal headaches usually clear up in 3 days, and don't feel the same as a migraine. They do sometimes trigger a migraine, though!
posted by assenav at 1:26 PM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I've done it twice, and both times I was a mess for about a week.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:27 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: When I have withdrawn from caffeine, I waited until the headache was unbearable. Then I take one swallow of my drink of choice, usually Coke. This kills the headache. I have rarely had to do that more than once.
posted by H21 at 1:36 PM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Migraine sufferer. Honestly one Advil kills the headache. So I take Advil in the afternoon for a couple of days and by the second/third day the worst of the headaches are over. ( 2-3cups a day.)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:31 PM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: It's been awhile but I remember it taking about two weeks for them to go away fully. The first few days I could barely think straight and they got gradually better over the course of the two weeks.
posted by kbuxton at 2:40 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: One week - ramping up for half and then plateauing.
I used to get migraines (not for about a decade now?), and I never got a migraine from caffeine withdrawal. Just pain that I would say is in my jaw/neck.
posted by Acari at 3:03 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: Four or five days. Ramping down helps substantially.
posted by jgreco at 3:25 PM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: 2-3 bad days for caffeine withdrawal, but I've never been a particularly heavy user - morning latte and sometimes afternoon at my max. Even within this, gradual reduction is easier - morning only, then half caf.

I haven't noticed being off caffeine reducing my migraines, but I have mostly quit when pregnant which is obviously its own interesting set of brain chemical changes.
posted by february at 4:36 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: One week of headaches, and then a second week of fuzzy-headedness. But after that, it’s really worth it for reducing migraines, I’ve found.
posted by umbú at 6:09 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: About ten days of grouchiness, cold sweats, headaches with visual auras, grinding bone pain, constipation and nausea. I had a few migraines when I was in my 20s, but not regularly. I had the hint of the same feelings coming off a (prescribed) course of percocet as with caffeine.

I was drinking a heroic amount of coffee to self-medicate ADHD before I was diagnosed, though
posted by scruss at 6:41 PM on September 7, 2021


Best answer: I personally don't get them myself -caffeine doesn't seem to affect me that greatly or the withdrawal. But plenty of friends and family it has. I've seen them get the headaches for 2-3 weeks after quitting. Scaling back seems to be easier but cold turkey gets you there quicker.

I'd say quit and take something like an Alleve etc to manage the pain short term. Drink plenty of water and get a good nights rest during the withdrawal period.
posted by PetiePal at 5:46 AM on September 8, 2021


Best answer: I do a month long caffeine purge once every 3-4 years. I'm a cis male, no propensity towards migraines (2, maybe 3 in my 45 years). The headaches start about 30-36 hours in, they usually peak around day 3-4, and after about a week they're done.
posted by nobeagle at 7:58 AM on September 8, 2021


Best answer: About a decade ago I tried quitting caffeine to see if it had an impact on my migraines. I had a headache of varying intensity, triggering low-level migraines several times, for ten days. After that, I was fine.

(Results: caffeine itself didn't have that significant of an effect on my migraines, it was diet soda that triggered the really terrible ones, as I found out when drinking diet Sprite once my withdrawal headache was over...)
posted by telophase at 8:10 AM on September 8, 2021


Best answer: I have quit caffeine twice. I have been diagnosed with Chronic Daily Migraines since I was 15.

First time it was just coffee I drank. Two weeks of feeling crap, then all settled. Migraines stayed constant.

Second time was coffee + cheap supermarket versions of Red Bull. 2L of that cheap stuff a day. Again, felt like crap for a while, it settled, migraines stayed constant.

Then I got a daith piercing. Now I can drink 3-4 cans on Monster a day (which is rare) plus a coffee, and I have no migraines at all. The daith just stopped them.

One of my daughters had migraines - she got a daith - no migraines since.

YMMV of course but if you have migraines, check into a daith.
posted by I shot a fox in Skyrim and it made me sad at 9:40 AM on September 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thanks everyone for giving me hope! In the end, it was about five days of pretty wretched headaches and a couple of days of dull achey head pain for me. Really unpleasant but I do feel better and hope it sticks!
posted by stillmoving at 11:02 AM on September 12, 2021


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