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Cold turkey: caffeine

I 'drink too much' as the saying goes, so I'd like to go cold turkey on caffeine.  Some informal attempts thus far have resulted in some very heavy headaches.

Has anyone gone off caffeine totally, and if so, how bad was it?  I've read this http://www.caffeinedependence.org/caffeine_dependence.html#withdrawal and it sounds pretty bad.  Is it as bad as that page says?  Is there any benefit to going off of caffeine that I'll feel?  Am I going to have long-term problems staying awwake without this upper?

For the record, I drink both regular and diet cokes from large fountain drinks--probably 2 44oz containers in a day as well as <variable amount of> 12oz cans in between.
pds Send private email
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
I hear it's horrible for 3 days, but then it's out of your system.

How much sleep do you get at night? And what do you eat for lunch? The caffeine could be boosting you when you'd normally be tired, and if you have a lot of starchy foods for lunch, your bloodsugar will probably plummet a couple hours later making you sleepy.

I never really drank caffeine except on rare occasions (once or twice a month, usually less), and my energy level is pretty even.
MarkTAW Send private email
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
It really varies from case to case. Aside from the physical withdrawl symptoms such as headaches, expect to discover that you're using caffeine to prop up a lifestyle that isn't otherwise sustainable.

Plan to sleep a lot for the first couple of weeks. I wouldn't even think of trying to quit cold turkey if you aren't able to spend at least 8 hours a night in bed at first. Giving up caffeine actually enhanced my ability to operate on short sleep -- eventually. For the first week or so, I needed 9-10 hours of sleep a night in order to function.

If you're getting severe headaches, consider taking Excedrin. It contains enough caffeine to hopefully take the edge off of the headaches. Stop drinking caffinated drinks immediately, but take the reccomended dose of Excedrin at first. Then cut back daily until you aren't taking any.
comp.lang.c refugee
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
Don't trust that page. The statistical data it provides amounts to a hill of beans.

You will suffer from caffeine withdrawals if you drink 100oz worth of soda every day. How you react to it depends on a lot of factors to the point where everyone has an unique experience. I know one person who quit soda cold turkey because he wanted to loose weight - the only change in his lifestyle was his sleeping patterns because his energy level was no longer quite so regulated.  Other people have had severe reactions, but they were all "back to normal" within two weeks.

If you have not tried to quit before, I strongly recommend you wait until your next prolonged vacation (at least five days).  You definitely do not want to do this a couple of days before a big presentation or meeting your fiancee's family.  :)
Anonymous Coward
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
+1 what Mark said about lunch. The after-lunch slump can be minimized or eliminated by eating a smaller, less starchy lunch.
comp.lang.c refugee
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
Expect the headache to clock in the first day around tea-time.

If you avoid sugar containing items or refined flour, it will help to keep your blood sugar stabilized.

Good luck!
jittery
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
Yes, lighter lunch.

Have fruits. Keep fruits in your drawer, whenever you feel hungry just eat an apple or a banana.

Water, lots of it. I don't like the taste of regular water so I keep flavor water and it helps.

I have almost completely left caffeine and I feel a lot better. I am alert throughout the day (earlier I would need caffeine at around 2pm otherwise I would be sleepy) and I save money too. [Starbucks ain't cheap. ;)]

Good luck,
JD Send private email
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
Like all things in life, just slowly and gradually moderate your lifestyle - the rate of success is VASTLY increased.

e.g. Alternate a glass of water with every soft drink (force a glass of water). I got "off" caffeine by alternating to 1/2 decaf coffee, and then to 3/4, and then entirely decaf. Of course then I decided that it's a hassle, so I have several real coffees a day, but if I had some need to cut it out of my diet I'd do the same thing.
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
(BTW: The only reason I cut caffeine out of my diet was a trip to Italy - I'd heard that I probably wouldn't like the coffee there, which was true, and it wouldn't be nearly as accessible as the coffeeshop-on-every-corner that you find here, which was also true)
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
I'd like to second the mention of flavored water, this was what made it possible for me to quit drinking caffeinated beverages.  Around here we have a brand called Crystal Clear that is carbonated and flavored so that it feels just like drinking soda.  Fruit-2-O is also good, but not carbonated and a notch more expensive.  Be warned that some sparkling water brands taste like ass.
Kevin
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
I have been known to drink the equivalent of 120 oz. of Diet Pepsi a day. I have also been known to go without it for a week at a time without any serious withdrawel symptoms. I think it depends on the person.

Good luck.
Turtle Rustler
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
I had to go cold turkey after being diagnosed with GERD (ulcer in esophogus). I was on a 6 coke, 6-8 coffee and 2 red bull a day habit. Headaches were gone within a week, but the general grogginess took much longer. Productivity suffered for a while, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
Don't go cold turkey--don't even quit. Just cut down. Drink no more than one cup (e.g., 8 oz, not a single big mug) of coffee or tea per day. If you still want a drink after that during the day, try green tea or something else that's caffeine free. You'll still get your caffeine fix but you'll feel better than you have been drinking too much coffee.
John
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
I cut down by making a rule: No caffeine except during work.  I also usually just drink water at lunch.  In this way I keep the caffeine for when I need it, to keep me alert at work, and when I get home I can start winding down so that by 10 or so I'm ready to turn it.

I've tried to quit completely before, but it never lasted; but now that I have a reasonable rule, it works pretty well.
Kyralessa Send private email
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
It's a drug. So, you're going to have some withdrawal symptoms. I was drinking 5 or 6 Dr. Pepper's a day, and hated it when it was the weekend and I didn't have any at the house and had horrible headaches.

I now drink maybe 2 a day, and water. I was able to quit cold turkey once - it was painful for about 2 or 3 days, and then I was fine. Of course, my first caffinated beverage back on was a large Cafe Con Leche - I was bouncing off the walls.
Cory Foy Send private email
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
"For the record, I drink both regular and diet cokes from large fountain drinks--probably 2 44oz containers in a day as well as <variable amount of> 12oz cans in between."

WTF!.. don't worry about the caffeine. That much sugar is a good way to get diabetes & fillings OR if it's mostly diet soda then that amount of artificial sweetener is also bad.
Kim
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
 
 
"The only reason I cut caffeine out of my diet was a trip to Italy - I'd heard that I probably wouldn't like the coffee there, which was true, and it wouldn't be nearly as accessible as the coffeeshop-on-every-corner that you find here, which was also true"

I can't believe this -- Italy has the best coffee in the world, and there is literally an espresso bar on every corner.
Frederik Slijkerman Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Italians do do the best coffee in the world, I think.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
How could you _not_ like italian coffee? Oh right, I remember: Americans don't like coffee. That's why Nestle makes shure non of their products tastes anything like real coffee in the US version (the CEO said that in an interview).
compilenix
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
This italian coffee thing reminds me of the movie Out of Rosemheim: "That's not coffee, that's brown water" (the bulgarian ladies comment on american filtered coffe.

I like italian coffee! But here in Switzerland we are probably pretty close to the real thing anyway...

Try not to be addicted to anything - ever. Addiction reduces your personal freedom: Dread going to Italy because the coffee there might not taste like the dope at home? WTF?
Daren Thomas Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
A small cup of Italian coffee probably wouldn't have as much caffeine as a regular mug of American coffee.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Cold turkey is the only way, 2 to 14 days of headaches. Exercise when headaches recede, the endorphins help. Then get ready for a better life. I've quit a couple of times for a year or two at a time. Now I am back on for the past year. When you go back on caffeine it helps productivity for a few months, but eventually it works against you turning everything to stress. Arrrrrgggghh!
Anon and anon
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Thanks; I've been thinking about trying to quit just before one of the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday breaks.  Thanks for all the advice (and it hasn't even been 12 hours since I posted...)
pds Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
My rule of thumb is this: one cup of coffee in the morning at work. Water or some sort of "cold tea" flavored beverage (i.e.- Arizona or Brisk) throughout the day. Avoid drinking soda at work if possible. One doesn't have to go "cold turkey" on caffeine because moderation is the key here.

Good luck!
bujin
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Cuban coffee is the best, but Americans don't know that.
Scott
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
The first time I gave up coffee (my caffiene source), I did it by accident, when I wasn't feeling well.  I couldn't eat or drink anything for a couple days, and I was already feeling miserable.  After I got better, I just didn't start drinking coffee again.

Of course, I'm back on it now, but that's another story.

My only advice is to do it "cold turkey", and set aside a good time to be miserable for a couple days, 'cause you're going to be.
D.W.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Frederik,

"I can't believe this -- Italy has the best coffee in the world, and there is literally an espresso bar on every corner."

Coffee, like manay substances (e.g. beer), is subjective, and there is no universal metric. Our coffee isn't different than in Italy because people here can't get ahold of the equipment or the beans they have, but rather because people subjectively like it a different way here. My comment wasn't that Italian coffee wasn't as subjectively good, but rather that it would be different and I probably wouldn't like it, and two weeks in a foreign coffee is not the time that I want to experiment with hyper-condensed coffee (for those who don't know - such changes can lead to...digestive issues).

Regarding the expresso bar on the corner - I saw nothing of the sort. Mind you, I was largely in historic tourist areas, so what I saw in no way correlates with what an average Italian sees, however in the historic areas of the cities convenience shops akin to a Tim Hortons were non-existant (or, in the few cases that I found one, of bizarre hours. I'm use to the 5am - 1am type of hours).
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Just this last weekend I stopped drinking coffee (my caffeine source).  The first three or four days had very painful headaches but it got better after that.  I only sleep an extra .5 hours of night now (10-4:15) and still can go on just fine.  I find that my energy is more stable and long-lasting, I can think a little bit clearer, my sleep is better, I am more productive and I am saving money.  I would recommend going off caffeine and that amount of sugar as well. 

I have a cup of mint tea in the morning and water through out the day which seems to help. 

Good luck.
Mike Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Wow, sorry for my barely literate comment above. Not much sleep last night. Doh!
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
I did the cold turkey caffeine drop.  It wasn't as bad as that web site makes it sound.  Other than a couple of weeks of headaches and a general lethargy for the same period, I did notice that I slept much better.  Prior to quitting the caffeine it wasn't unusual for me to have spent much of the night lying awake.

Part of the solution for me was to buy a better grade of decaffeinated coffee to keep around the house.  I was never a huge soda fan because the sugar sent me for a loop, but coffee is something that I really enjoy.  Most coffee shops seem to stock good decaffeinated coffee and that is some consolation.  I don't especially consider Tim Hortons to be one of those shops, possibly because their cappucino comes from a mix, not pressurized steam.
Clay Dowling Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Wow I can't believe people are drinking 120oz of soda in a day... I can only imagine what your teeth must look like!
Sassy Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Tim Hortons is the McDonalds of coffee shops. No, make that the Wendy's of coffee shops (confusing how some of them eliminate the possessive apostrophe). In no way is anything beyond a standard coffee there good. For normal, caffeinated brewed coffee they are fairly good though.
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Sassy,

If you're constantly drinking, then your teeth will be fine - your teeth only really rot when they are somewhat dry, such as when you sleep. It's then that the sugar is used as food for the nasty bugs.

So if you're slamming back Red Bulls all day, and then brush your teeth (and mouthwash) and go to sleep, your teeth are probably great.
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
That's just nauseating.
Sassy Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
I went cold turkey from caffeine when I went on the Atkins diet 2 years ago.  Yeah the headaches were annoying but they lasted only a few days.
Stick with it!  It's well worth it in terms of how much better you'll feel.  And if you happen to have any allergies, expect them to become less severe, too.  Any doctor at all will tell you that you are better off without caffeine...
There's an old story about coffee - only about 23 of the few hundred chemical compounds found in coffee have been identified;  19 of those are carcinogenic and one (caffeine) is physiologically addictive.  If it wasn't already a national beverage, the FDA would outlaw it!
Steve D Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
The only two items I missed during a 2 weeks holiday in the USA, where REAL coffee and the sparkling water.
No way, the Italian coffee is the world's best.
Sevenoaks Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
SteveD,

"There's an old story about coffee - only about 23 of the few hundred chemical compounds found in coffee have been identified;  19 of those are carcinogenic and one (caffeine) is physiologically addictive.  If it wasn't already a national beverage, the FDA would outlaw it!"

An old and nonsensical story, maybe.

As far as actual medical research, organizations have been trying to find something nefarious about coffee for decades, yet remarkably the only research that is verifiable is that caffeine is actually a health benefit, strangely enough.
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Dennis F -
Are you always so insulting, or are you just cranky from lack of caffeine?
Steve D Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Dennis,
  I recently read that it wasn't so much the sugar content so much as the length of exposure.  So, a bag of M&Ms over the course of an hour is worse than scarfing a whole Hershey bar.  The Wikipedia entry on Tooth says:

"Certain bacteria in the mouth live off the remains of foods, especially sugars. In the absence of oxygen they produce lactic acid, which dissolves the calcium and phosphorus in the enamel in a process known as demineralisation. Enamel demineralisation takes place below the critical pH of about 5.5.
Saliva gradually neutralises the acids causing the pH of the tooth surface to rise above the critical pH. This causes 'remineralisation', the return of the dissolved minerals to the enamel. If there is sufficient time between the intake of foods (two to three hours) and the damage is limited the teeth can repair themselves."

  The chocolate thing reminds me of something, though.  I gave caffeine the kick to avoid the pain of IBS.  If you have caffeine linked in your mind with intense pain, it makes quitting cold turkey a whole lot easier.  Very pavlovian, once you make the connection. :) 
  My biggest problem was the behavior modification.  For instance, in my mind a cheeseburger and fries can only be completed by a Coke.  The 'combo meal' mentality makes it difficult to order water with your meal...
  So I've switched to ice tea.  I'm saving myself the sugar of a soda, the tea is arguably better for me.
  Finally, there remains a lot of argument about what does and what does not contain caffeine.  For instance, cocoa supposedly contains NO caffeine.  However, it does contain theobromine, which is a 'gentler' drug than caffeine.  Tea seems to contain a third stimulent.  Trying to find some consensus on this is nearly impossible. :(
Michael Dwyer Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
SteveD,

Unless you personally invented the story, it isn't insulting.
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Michael,

I've oft wondered if diet sodas - containing sugar substitutes - eliminate the tooth decay risk. e.g. if the substitutes also have no caloric content for the bacteria, so they don't promote their populations.
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
Whenever you think you feel hungry or craving sugar or caffeine, try drinking a large glass of water first.  This will be good for you in a lot of ways.
Robert
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
"If you're constantly drinking, then your teeth will be fine - your teeth only really rot when they are somewhat dry, such as when you sleep. It's then that the sugar is used as food for the nasty bugs."

The sugar is only one part of it, don't forget the acidity of Coke and other drinks like that. AFAIK I know that's definitely not good for your teeth.
sloop
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
I have been off and on the stuff for years and can attest, as have others, that I perform much better when I am free of it. I think I have an addiction prone personality because if I use it at all, I start fiending. Consequently, moderating my usage or quitting gradually are not options--cold turkey is the only way to go. I get headaches for two to three days and lethargy for a couple of weeks. I'm actually on week two of my current cessation. I'm still a little lethargic but I am calmer and more clear headed. I really want this time to be for good because if I do take it up again the boost only lasts a couple of weeks, after which I'm stressed out, tired all the time, and too easily distracted to focus on the higher level problems at work. Moreover, I do not want to go through another cold turkey week. Every time I wonder why I do it to myself. Good luck, which ever method you choose.
offMyMeds
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
You know what's funny about all this: someone who knew nothing about software development/computer culture would think that a caffeine addiction/withdrawal thread is off-topic.  Judging from the feedback, it's not. :)

Thanks everyone for the expert insight thus far.  I haven't decided on cold turkey or minimal intake (minimal: like 1 coke or maybe half a caffeine pill a day), but I'm definitely doing this.  The only thing that definitely won't work for me is the graduated step-down plan.  Also I'll definitely hit the headache medicine, I would have honestly never thought of that (I don't get headaches ever).

Also I get >=8 hours of sleep and can afford to go 10+ every day for a few weeks, so there won't be a problem on that end.

As for the teeth, yes, there are some yellow stains but they're not to the 'point of no return'...yet.
pds Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 
I wouldn't give up on the step down plan yet.  I would suggest switching to caffeine free coke at home for a while and start bringing it in to work as well.
Kero Send private email
Thursday, November 17, 2005
 
 

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