Most of us discovered the pleasures of a cup of Joe around the onset of adulthood. That boost of energy provided by coffee’s caffeine content helps us jumpstart our day. Once we started working, one cup of coffee may have turned into three or four cups throughout the day, and maybe even a Red Bull or two. We began to rely on that caffeine boost.
However, there is a downside to the stimulant properties of caffeine. When consumed in excessive amounts, they can leave us feeling jittery, irritable, or restless. Even worse, when we eventually try to cut caffeine out we may experience pretty awful withdrawal effects. Keep reading to learn more about the dangers of caffeinating your way through the day.
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a naturally-occurring substance that is found in about sixty types of plants, mostly the cacao, tea, and coffee bean plants. Caffeine provides a stimulant effect in beverages and other food products and medications with varying degrees of potency. Most commonly, caffeine is found in coffee, tea, colas, energy drinks, medications like Excedrin, and diet pills.
Caffeine works in several ways to achieve stimulant effects. It increases energy metabolism in the brain, activates noradrenaline neurons, affects the release of dopamine and acts on the serotonin neurons through its methylxanthine content.
Caffeine is sought after for its positive effects, including:
- Increased mental alertness
- Increased energy
- Improved mood
- Improved cognitive functioning
Dangers of caffeine
On the flip side, too much caffeine intake can also produce adverse effects.
Consider these eight side effects of caffeine:
- Nervousness, anxiety, feeling jittery
- Frequent urination
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Rebound fatigue
- Upset stomach
- Caffeine addiction
Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal
With continued caffeine consumption, the body will increase tolerance to its effects. This leads to drinking even more coffee or caffeinated beverages in order to feel its uplifting effects.
However, as caffeine consumption increases, side effects become more pronounced. You may start feeling edgy, irritable, and restless. You may experience muscle twitching, a flushed face, and rambling thoughts. This may be the tipping point that causes you to want to cut caffeine out of your daily routine.
When you do quit caffeine, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These can include:
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating
Try these 5 tips when quitting caffeine
With a little strategizing, you can minimize the discomforts of caffeine withdrawal. Consider these five handy tips:
- Make a list: Create a list of each source of caffeine you consume in a typical day. This may involve digging through some labels, as there is caffeine in a wide array of products.
- Pick a good time: Your timing for quitting caffeine is also strategic. Try quitting during a vacation where you are under no pressure to be productive or to push through a hard work day.
- Taper off the caffeine: Instead of quitting cold turkey, consider a slow, steady tapering off of the caffeine. Try reducing your daily caffeine intake by 10% a day to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Avoid an extra shot of espresso in your favorite coffee drink, try switching to tea, etc.
- Drink decaffeinated drinks: Since sipping coffee is in itself a comforting habit, don’t deprive yourself. Try sipping decaffeinated teas and water to replace the coffee-drinking routine.
- Choose healthier alternatives: Being active is the best way to rev up your energy, boost stamina, improve mood, increase mental concentration, and improve sleep quality.
If you have found your caffeine intake steadily increasing, consider taking these steps now to curb your exposure to adverse caffeine effects and even caffeine addiction.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.