Caffeine Withdrawal Major Cause of Recurring Headache

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A recent review of the literature has shown that caffeine withdrawal causes headache in approximately 50% of people. In North America, 80% to 90% of adults regularly consume caffeine, mainly by drinking coffee and sodas. Now, after 170 years worth of research, there is now enough evidence to support that caffeine withdrawal causes enough serious physical symptoms and disruption in daily life to be included in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV).

Drs. Roland Griffiths and Laura Juliano of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland led the research, published in the September 2004 issue of Psychopharmacology.

They analyzed 66 earlier studies on the effects of caffeine withdrawal. Of the 49 symptom categories identified, headache was listed as one of the most common, showing up in 77% of the studies, and in 50% of the people. Other symptoms include fatigue or drowsiness, “unhappy” mood, depression, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and flu-like symptoms.

The withdrawal symptoms are severe enough in about one in eight people to interfere with their ability to function on a day-today basis, say the researchers. One of the most profound signs of caffeine withdrawal was impaired behavioral and cognitive performance, although memory was not affected. Many of these symptoms are promptly reversed when caffeine is consumed.

The study showed no difference in withdrawal symptoms based on the source of the caffeine; coffee, sodas, chocolate, and caffeine-containing medications were considered equal.

The daily intake of caffeine is about 280 milligrams – or two mugs of coffee or three to five cans of soda. Approximately 100 milligrams per day is enough to trigger withdrawal symptoms, and withdrawal may occur after only 3 days of daily caffeine consumption. The more caffeine consumed, the more profound the withdrawal symptoms. The researchers says that caffeine withdrawal usually develops within 12-24 hours of abstinence, however, the onset can be as early as 6 hours and symptoms may last from 2 to 9 days.

Dr. Griffiths and Juliano say the best way to deal with caffeine withdrawal is to gradually decrease consumption. People who are experiencing recurring headaches or fatigue, they say, may want to consider reducing their caffeine intake until they are only  consuming decaffeinated coffee or soda.

ProductCaffeine (mg)
Coffee, grande (16 oz.) Starbucks550
Coffee, tall (12 oz.) Starbucks375
Coffee, short (8 oz.) Starbucks250
Caffe Mocha, short (8 oz.) or tall (12 oz.) Starbucks35
7-Eleven Big Gulp cola (64 oz.)190
Cola (12 oz.)35
Coffee, non-gourmet (8 oz.)135
Espresso (1 oz.) Starbucks35
Excedrin (2)130
Tea, green or instant (8 oz.)39
Chocolate, dark, bittersweet, semi-sweet (1 oz.)20

ProductCaffeine (mg)
Coffee, grande (16 oz.) Starbucks550
Coffee, tall (12 oz.) Starbucks375
Coffee, short (8 oz.) Starbucks250
Caffe Mocha, short (8 oz.) or tall (12 oz.) Starbucks35
7-Eleven Big Gulp cola (64 oz.)190
Cola (12 oz.)35
Coffee, non-gourmet (8 oz.)135
Espresso (1 oz.) Starbucks35
Excedrin (2)130
Tea, green or instant (8 oz.)39
Chocolate, dark, bittersweet, semi-sweet (1 oz.)20

ProductCaffeine (mg)
Coffee, grande (16 oz.) Starbucks550
Coffee, tall (12 oz.) Starbucks375
Coffee, short (8 oz.) Starbucks250
Caffe Mocha, short (8 oz.) or tall (12 oz.) Starbucks35
7-Eleven Big Gulp cola (64 oz.)190
Cola (12 oz.)35
Coffee, non-gourmet (8 oz.)135
Espresso (1 oz.) Starbucks35
Excedrin (2)130
Tea, green or instant (8 oz.)39
Chocolate, dark, bittersweet, semi-sweet (1 oz.)20