About 80 to 90 percent of people in North America have caffeine on a daily basis. However,15 percent of people report that they have stopped consuming caffeine due to concerns over health effects and negative side effects, according to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The average person in the United States reports drinking the equivalent of about 17 ounces of coffee a day, but even consuming only 8 ounces per day can lead to temporary withdrawal symptoms as an effect of abstinence.
When you use caffeine on a daily basis, your body grows accustomed to it and you need gradually higher amounts to experience the same alertness and enhanced concentration, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This condition, called tolerance, may also mean that you are dependent on caffeine and susceptible to withdrawal symptoms if you abruptly decrease your caffeine intake. Some common caffeine withdrawal symptoms include severe headache, depression, anxiety, irritability and muscle aches. Your body doesn’t need to adjust to these withdrawal symptoms because it eventually adjusts to the lower caffeine intake.
Duration of Symptoms
You may start experiencing caffeine withdrawal symptoms within 12 to 24 hours after you stop having caffeine, or you may not start experiencing effects until 36 hours later, according to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The height of caffeine withdrawal symptoms tends to occur within 20 to 48 hours, and the duration of the symptoms can last two days to a week or more.
A moderate intake of caffeine shouldn’t cause your body harm unless you are hypersensitive to caffeine. Generally, one to two 5-ounce cups of coffee per day -- or about 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine -- is acceptable, according to the FDA. You are more likely to experience unwanted side effects such as anxiety and muscle tremors and more likely to have severe withdrawal symptoms if you regularly have about four to seven servings of coffee -- about 600 milligrams of caffeine -- on a regular basis.
Reducing the Problem
If you regularly drink multiple cups of coffee a day but want to cut down without discomfort, you may be able to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Before you start cutting back, pay close attention to how much caffeine is in all of your foods, drinks and medications. Remember that caffeine can be in certain pain medications and is even in chocolate. Then, slowly start whittling down the caffeine content in your major caffeine sources. For instance, if you’re a soda drinker start drinking one less can a day and if you’re a coffee drinker cut back on the size of each cup or start mixing in a small amount of decaf with your regular. Eventually you should transition to a reduced soda intake and full cups of decaffeinated coffee without ever having to deal with a dramatic crash.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Caffeine Withdrawal Recognized as a Disorder
- Cleveland Clinic: Caffeine and Headache
- University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics: Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?
- Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center: Information About Caffeine Dependence
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Caffeine and Your Body