Beating Caffeine Addiction

Caffeine addiction is a common, everyday part of modern American life. Coffee, lattes, espressos, energy drinks. I will admit: I think caffeine is great. It wakes you up when you’re dead tired (poor quality sleep: another huge part of American life), helps you focus, and makes you feel good.

 

It’s is also an addictive substance that can wreak havoc on your health and well-being if you’re not careful. Sure. Compared to other drugs, caffeine addiction is pretty tame. But it still sucks, and it keeps you from experience the full benefits of caffeine.

 

This is about beating a caffeine addiction: why you should, how to do it, and how to change your caffeine habits to avoid getting addicted again.

 

Before I get started, check out my other blog post on using caffeine to maximize productivity. I go over some of the ways caffeine can alter your brain chemical balance. Now with that out of the way:

 

Why You Should Beat Your Caffeine Addiction

 

Reason #1: Avoid Crippling Dependence

You’ll become so reliant on this drug, you can’t get anything done without it. Even now, you’re probably dead tired without caffeine. Without it you get headaches. You lose all motivation to do anything, and you may even get depressed. Not only that, but sleep won’t make you feel rested anymore.

 

Caffeine becomes a crutch at this point. You NEED it to be functional at all. And no matter how much you take, you’ll never get an energy boost from caffeine anymore. And what do you think is going to happen when you CAN’T get your hands on some for whatever reason?

 

Reason #2: Avoid Sleep Deprivation

Building off of Reason #2, too much caffeine will make you sleep deprived. Even if you set aside 8+ hours a night for sleep, your body won’t really be sleeping. Caffeine disrupts the sleep cycle. Your body basically won’t know WHEN to sleep.

 

And with that comes all the health problems of sleep deprivation:

  • Physical exhaustion
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • More likely to get sick
  • Hallucinations
  • Feeling like shit

 

And you CAN’T fix the sleep deprivation by sleeping. The only solution is to stop taking caffeine for a while.

 

Reason #3: Get Much Stronger Benefits

You probably already know that if you go without caffeine for a little while, its effects would get stronger. That’s absolutely true.

 

Two weeks ago, I fucked up and started drinking a lot of caffeine for about 2 weeks. I started getting diminishing returns. 1-2 cups of coffee didn’t really give me an energy boost, it only really gave me a feeling of “normal.” Sleep didn’t make me feel rested at all anymore. So, I decided to go without caffeine for 3-4 days.

 

The first 2 days sucked. No energy, no motivation, sleeping 12+ hours a day, headaches. The whole shebang.

 

That first cup of coffee after those 3-4 days was amazing!

 

It was like I was having coffee for the first time in my life. Focus, energy, and mood were higher than I ever could have imagined. I think you should go without caffeine for a few days just to experience this yourself.

 

To Sum Up:

You should beat caffeine addiction to avoid becoming to dependent on it, to get better sleep, and to experience much stronger benefits.

 

The ONLY effective way to overcome caffeine addiction is to stop taking it for a little while.

 

“A little while” is only 3-4 days, a week tops.

 

There’s two ways of doing this: Cold Turkey and Cutting Back Gradually. Cold turkey means you stop taking caffeine completely. I recommend cold turkey, IF YOU’RE ABLE TO DO IT.

 

The reason is because no matter what method you choose, you’re going to feel like shit. Instead of dragging it out by cutting back gradually, just go full-on cold turkey and get it over with. Like ripping off a band-aid: be quick and get it over with.

 

Cutting Back Gradually

Let’s say you’re so addicted, you get headaches if you go more than 12 hours without some form of caffeine.

 

In this case, you should cut back gradually. You’re caffeine addiction is so strong, if you stop taking it all of a sudden, the cumulative withdrawal symptoms (the “caffeine hangover”) may actually kill you (or at least make you feel like you’re going to die).

 

You’ll have full-blown migraines. You’ll be sleeping 12+ hours a day for the next week. Your whole body is going to be sore, like you just finished American Ninja Warrior right after running a marathon in the Grand Canyon. You may even experience full-on clinical depression.

 

Instead of all that, just cut back your coffee by one cup (about 100 mg of caffeine) a week until you’re down to a cup or two a day (about 100 to 200 mg of caffeine). You’ll feel like shit, but it won’t be NEARLY as bad as stopping caffeine altogether. ‘

 

Once you reach this point, you can choose to go cold turkey.

 

Cold Turkey

If you’re at the point where caffeine doesn’t pump you as much and only makes you feel “normal”, cold turkey is the way to go.

 

I recommend going cold turkey from caffeine for at least four days, a week if you can manage it. Start the cold turkey process during a vacation period or on a weekend when you’re off work. The first 1-2 days will be the worst, so it should ideally happen on a day when you don’t have a lot of obligations like work or school.

 

When going cold turkey, you should do your best to avoid ANYTHING with caffeine in it. Coffee and tea are obvious. Other food and drink with caffeine include protein/energy bars, chocolate, and soda. Drink plenty of water and just sleep whenever you’re tired or have a headache.

 

Eventually, that feeling of “normal” that you could only get with caffeine will come back without it. At this point, you’ve more-or-less completed the caffeine tolerance reset, and you can go back to taking it.

 

To Sum Up:

Cold turkey is definitely better than cutting back gradually. The only reason you should cut back gradually is if your caffeine addiction is so strong to the point where you get headaches if you go more than 12 hours without caffeine.

 

To cut back gradually, reduce your caffeine intake by 100 mg every week, until you’re taking between 100 to 200 mg of caffeine a day. 100 mg caffeine is about one cup of coffee.

 

And, cold turkey only needs to be done for 3-4 days, a week tops.

 

To Avoid Getting Addicted Again:

 

Restrict yourself to 1-2 cups of coffee in a single day. This isn’t a strict rule, just a general guideline. If you feel the need to go over this amount, go ahead.

 

Take Caffeine AT LEAST 1 Hour After Waking Up

Your body runs on a schedule called the Circadian Rhythm. It regulates your body’s biological process, including your sleep cycle: the time that your body goes to sleep and the time that it wakes up. The stress hormone Cortisol is released periodically throughout the day as part of the Circadian Rhythm.

 

Taking caffeine when your cortisol levels are high makes the caffeine much less effective AND greatly builds up your tolerance, so you need more of it going forward.

 

You want to take caffeine when your cortisol levels are low. which happens at least 1 hour after waking up. The best time to take caffeine I’ve found is between 2.5 and 4.5 hours after waking because that’s when cortisol levels are at their lowest.

 

A general way of monitoring your cortisol levels is by how tired you are. When you just wake up, you’re still pretty tired. This is when your cortisol levels are very high to wake you up, so you want to wait until you feel a little more awake.

 

Don’t Take Caffeine Every Day

Caffeine loses its effectiveness in as quickly as 1-4 consecutive days of use. Once this happens, you’ll need to drink more of it to get the same benefits. This becomes a vicious cycle that leads to caffeine addiction.

 

There are two ways of avoiding this:

 

Method #1:

Make at least 2 days a week caffeine free. Make the 2 days consecutive. For example, you drink coffee Monday through Friday, and take Saturday and Sunday off.

 

This method is very strict and regimented, and it works well as long as you can stick to it. It’s benefit is that it’s simple to follow. The issue with this method is that it only works if you never exceed 1 cup of coffee a day. Exceeding this amount means that you’ll build up your caffeine tolerance too much, and the 2 days off isn’t long enough to reset it. It’s not a flexible system. And sometimes, you may need/want to go over 1 cup.

 

Method #2:

Take as much caffeine as you want everyday. Once you start getting diminishing returns and it’s doing more harm than good, go cold turkey for 3-4 days, a week at most.

 

This is the opposite of method #1. It’s biggest benefit is that very flexible and isn’t strict at all. Drink as much coffee as you want. Once it’s doing more harm than good, stop taking it for a little while. The issue is that it’s difficult to abruptly switch from taking as much caffeine as you want to not taking any at all. The detoxing phase will come with low energy, low motivation, headaches, etc.

 

The severity of all that is up to you. If you let it get to the point where you’re drinking more than 3 cups of coffee a day, the detox phase will be harder and will need to last the full one week. If you stop the moment you start having any sleep trouble, the detox phase will be much easier.

 

Method #2’s issue is it’s benefit: flexibility. Method #2 also gives you the chance to practice discipline during the detox phase; you need to force yourself to be functional and productive without caffeine.

 

I consider Method #2 the better option, but  I recommend Method #1. Because it’s so strict, you’re almost guaranteed to not be able to follow it completely for very long. This gives you a chance to see how you personally react to caffeine, and it’ll help you better use Method #2. Method #1 is a good stepping stone to transition into Method #2.

 

Final Words

Caffeine addiction may be an everyday part of life in many countries, and addiction to caffeine is pretty tame compared to other drugs, but it’s still an addiction and it can ruin your life all the same.

 

The best way to beat a caffeine addiction is to stop taking it for a little while. Cold turkey for 3-4 days, a week at most, is always the better option. But if you’re addiction is so bad that you get a withdrawal headache if you go more than 12 hours without caffeine, you should cut back gradually since the cumulative “caffeine hangover” may kill you.

 

And I prefer to drink as much coffee as I want until I no longer get a benefit out it, then do a detox.

 

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All the best,

Brandon

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