Caffeine withdrawal gains ground in the scientific world
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During a morning routine between waking up and going to school, work or wherever the day takes someone, it is probable that pouring a cup of coffee is included in that morning schedule. This is true for an enormous proportion of the United States, as 82 percent of the population reports drinking the roasted bean on a daily basis. Although caffeine has been extensively researched for its benefits to people, there are also limits to its consistent use. Even more important, scientific studies also seek to determine Americans’ addictive relationship with caffeine and its drawbacks.

Delving into more specific statistics, the average American drinks 2.1 caffeinated beverages per day. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, evidence details that three to five standard cups of coffee, or up to 400 milligrams per day, is a healthy range of consumption. In moderation, research has also shown that coffee is linked to a reduced chance of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and even cancer in the liver and endometrial system primarily. However, taking in any more than a healthy amount may be adversely associated with multiple health risks and even premature death in healthy adults.

Given these nationwide trends, it appears as though caffeine has solidified a purposeful role within modern society. With such a high rate of consistent consumption, scholars and researchers have proposed that its frequent use can be attributed to much more than increased productivity. In fact, many posit that a serious and epidemic dependency to the substance is secretly ruling the United States, not fueling it.

Research concerning caffeine and its usage extends as far back as the 19th century. From a broad review of human and animal studies observing its effects on consumers, the authors affirmed that the specific pharmacological effects of caffeine withdrawal have amassed a substantial amount of evidence. First of all, the range of caffeine withdrawal symptoms has been measured from mild to extreme degrees and the prevalence of these symptoms in heavy caffeine users is very common. Headache and fatigue were the most frequently reported withdrawal symptoms, while more serious symptoms like anxiety, impaired psychomotor performance, nausea and cravings occurred at a significantly lower rate.

However, according to authors Roland R. Griffiths and Phillip P. Woodson, the most important finding was that, “Although animal and human studies suggest that physical dependence may potentiate the reinforcing effects of caffeine, human studies also demonstrate that a history of substantial caffeine intake is not a necessary condition for caffeine to function as a reinforcer.”

A more recent review of caffeine withdrawal details that there is a sufficient amount of empirical evidence to add to the condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). In addition to standard symptoms such as headaches, the study identified new diagnostic criteria for caffeine withdrawal consisting of:

  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Decreased alertness
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased contentedness and depressed mood
  • Difficulty concentrating and mental fog
  • Irritability
  • Flu-like symptoms, nausea and muscle impairment were also considered

From the collected data, researchers found that 50 percent of study participants experienced headache as a form of withdrawal and 13 percent reported clinically significant distress. Similar to quitting other addictive substances, these symptoms began between 12 to 24 hours after ceasing caffeine consumption and lasted anywhere between two to nine days. Another notable finding was that the symptoms’ severity increased with the increase in the individual’s daily intake. Furthermore, a dose of 100 milligrams per day was enough to cause withdrawal symptoms.

Studies have also sought to explore the implications for future generations given the current opinions of normal caffeine consumption and the concept of it as an addiction. From examining samples of high school youth, a substantial amount of students perceived caffeine use as a non-harmful activity. In addition, certain existing factors also had an effect on usage, including cultural background, health status, existence of depression and having close connections that are afflicted with a drug or alcohol problem.

If these developments continue to progress, increasing populations will continue to suffer from unneeded setbacks in their daily lives. At Sovereign Health Group, our team of licensed mental health professionals understands that addiction and other behavioral compulsions can come in many forms that are detrimental to an individual’s overall health. For intense feelings of withdrawal, Sovereign also offers a range of detox services to guide a person through recovery. If you or a loved one struggles with compulsion or withdrawal symptoms, contact our helpline online or call (866) 819-0427.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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