Whether or not you can become addicted to caffeine is a rather controversial topic within the medical field, with some of the controversy stemming from how addiction is defined. However, most experts agree that caffeine withdrawal does produce symptoms, which can range from mild to severe. If you think you are addicted to caffeine and want to stop, you should talk to your doctor about programs designed to break caffeine dependency.
The most common symptom of caffeine withdrawal is a headache, which often develops within 12 to 24 hours after the last ingestion of caffeine. The headache often develops slowly and is felt throughout the head. In some cases, the headache can become severe and throbbing. Roughly 50 percent of habitual caffeine consumers experience a headache after stopping ingestion of caffeine, and the incidence and severity of headaches caused by caffeine withdrawal can vary greatly from person to person.
Another common symptom of caffeine withdrawal is excessive sleepiness or drowsiness, sometimes leading to feelings of fatigue, sluggishness and lethargy. Again, symptoms generally first appear 12 to 24 hours after the last intake of caffeine, and the severity of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person.
Difficulty concentrating or focusing is another frequently reported symptom of caffeine withdrawal. In extreme cases, some people have reported becoming completely incapacitated and unable to work or go to school because of caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Again, the severity of symptoms ranges widely among individuals. Some people also report decreased motivation to work. Irritability, anxiety and depression may also develop as symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. Cognitive and psychomotor performance also may decrease, as measured by specific tests.
Some people may experience flu-like symptoms caused by caffeine withdrawal, including nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and pains, and heaviness in the arms and legs. People may also experience hot and cold spells and a general feeling of illness. The peak intensity of caffeine withdrawal symptoms is often reported to occur 20 to 48 hours after the last caffeine intake, and symptoms can last for two days up to a week or more.