Caffeine is the most consumed psychoactive substance (a substance that stimulates the central nervous system) and therefore may be considered a drug. It was estimated that about 80% of the world’s population consume caffeine every day. Caffeine is so popular, because of its stimulating effect on the brain. The consumption of caffeine may alleviate fatigue, increase the feeling of wakefulness and improve concentration and focusing.
Regular consumption of caffeine may result in mild physical addiction usually represented by the withdrawal symptoms. However, unlike the addiction to alcohol or drugs caffeine dependence doesn’t interfere with individual’s everyday activities and social life.
It was estimated, that an ingestion of a cup of coffee every day is enough for a dependency to develop.
The amount of caffeine included in some common foods and beverages are:
- Coffee, brewed – 102 -200 milligrams per cup;
- Coffee, instant – 27-173 milligrams per cup;
- Coffee, decaffeinated – 3-12 milligrams per cup;
- Tea, instant – 28 milligrams per cup;
- Tea, canned iced – 22-36 milligrams per 12 ounces;
- Caffeine-containing cola and other soft drinks – 36-71 milligrams per 12 ounces;
- Cocoa – 3 – 13 milligrams per cup;
- Chocolate, milk – 3-6 milligrams per ounce;
- Chocolate, bittersweet – 25 milligrams per ounce;
Caffeine affects the neurotransmitter system by blocking adenosine receptors A and A2A. When a person regularly consumes caffeine in great amounts, the body is trying to restore its normal functioning by creating more and more new adenosine receptors. This leads to caffeine tolerance – a person would need to consume more caffeine in order to reach the same effect as previously. So when the person stops consuming caffeine, adenosine binds with all of the receptors, including the new ones and therefore leads to the withdrawal. The more caffeine you ingest, the more severe would be the withdrawal symptoms.
About 12-24 hours after the last caffeine-containing drink occur the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. The peak is seen between 20 and 51 hours. Until the 9th day of withdrawal the most severe symptoms are gone, although in some cases, they remain up to 12 days.
Withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- general malaise;
- inability to concentrate;
- weakness, fatigue and sleepiness;
- irritability and mood swings;
- nausea, vomiting;
- muscle pain and stiffness;
- motor impairment;
It is recommended to stop using caffeine gradually by a method called 25% solution.
Week 1 – 75% regular coffee, 25% decaffeinated;
Week 2 – 50% regular coffee, 50% decaffeinated;
Week 3 – 25% regular coffee, 75% decaffeinated;
Week 4 – 100% decaffeinated.
Adaptogens, herbal medicines, may help to relieve the withdrawal. Ginseng, ginger, Rhodiela rosea are the most common adaptogens. Essential oils such as rosemary, peppermint, lavender, chamomile may alleviate the caffeine headaches.
Coffee may be substituted by the green tea, which contains lesser amounts of caffeine in comparising to coffee.