Caffeine Detox: How to Quit Caffeine and Break the Addiction

A caffeine detox may be needed for many reasons and some of those could include:

  1. Caffeine may no longer have the same effects it once had.
  2. Daily caffeine consumption amounts are out of control.
  3. Caffeine consumption is leading to health problems.
  4. Doctor’s orders.

Whichever the reason, quitting caffeine isn’t easy since most people develop a strong dependence on the daily dose; both physically and mentally.

Most people experience some form of withdrawal symptoms when reducing caffeine. However these can be minimized using a carefully tapered dose.

Two Methods for Quitting Caffeine

1. The Weaning Method (Recommended)

With this method, instead of quitting caffeine all at once, a person gradually reduces the amount of caffeine that is consumed each day.

We recommend stepping down the dose about 10-30 mg less every three days until a zero daily caffeine amount is achieved.

This can be accomplished by just drinking a little less of your typical caffeinated beverage.

Alternatively, it can be done precisely with a product like Wean Caffeine (something we helped get to market). Wean supplies caffeine tablets it precise reducing amounts, and can minimize withdrawal symptoms (such as headaches).

Examples:

  • Coffee should be reduced by a 1/4 of a cup every two to three days. (This is difficult if you don’t make coffee at home.)
  • Energy Drinks can be reduced by about 1/4 a can every two to three days.
  • Soda can be reduced by cutting back a 1/2 a can every two to three days or by a 1/4 a bottle if drinking a 16 fl oz size.
  • Tea can be reduced by cutting back 1/2 cup every two to three days.

Pros:

  • Withdrawal symptoms are much less severe or can be completely avoided.
  • Most people can continue to function and be productive.
  • Mild to no caffeine headache to deal with.
  • Less shocking to the system.

Cons:

  • Can take longer to detox depending on the beginning daily dose amount.
  • Requires tracking caffeine and being intentional about what’s being consumed and how much.

2. The Cold Turkey Method

With this method, you simply stop to consuming caffeine all at once.

Note that simply does not mean easy!

While this can be the fastest way to detox, it does come with a price and a huge shock to your system.

Pros: 

  • The fastest way to detox from caffeine.
  • A realization of caffeine’s influence on body functioning.

Cons:

  • Can produce severe caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
  • A person may be out of commission for 1 to 3 days or even weeks if the addiction was severe.
  • Can lead to a loss of productivity.
  • Invokes more of a tendency to give up because of how horrible it makes people feel.

My first four weeks of quitting cold turkey were terrible. I was at the doctor’s each of the first four weeks because I thought I was sick. I knew caffeine withdrawal was a thing but not like this!!

-Chris M.

Prepare In Advance For The Cold Turkey Method

If you choose the cold turkey method, it’s important that you know what to expect and prepare in advance for the debilitating withdrawal symptoms that can follow.

  1. Plan ahead so that the first couple days of detox fall on a weekend or work holiday.
  2. Have pain relievers on hand and avoid driving.
  3. Have plenty of food on hand to avoid the need to drive anywhere for food.
  4. Prepare some meals in advance like soup or other easy to digest foods.
  5. Talk with family members about what you are about to do, what they can expect, and how they can help.
  6. Inform your co-workers and/or your boss about your caffeine detox.

The method of preparation is relative to the amount of caffeine you had been consuming. Those who had been consuming large amounts of caffeine should prepare more than those detoxing from smaller daily amounts.

Either one of these caffeine detox methods will work, but a person has to decide which one will have the least impact of his/her lifestyle and which one is likely to be the most successful given the unique circumstances involved.

See Also: Our Guide to Understanding Caffeine.

What A Caffeine Detox Is Like

Ok, I feel lousy.

I’m tired, unmotivated, and my head’s foggy.

I have half a headache and I’m cranky. Why? Yesterday I decided to start a caffeine detox.

For several weeks I’ve felt the need to reset my “caffeine clock”. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I needed to return to the time before I had such a tolerance for caffeine.  A wonderful time where one coffee would bring feelings of elation and joy, leaving me ready to take on whatever task was before me.

Unfortunately, the occasional coffee turned into one a day, then two a day, then mixed with energy drinks and chocolate covered espresso beans. Wham, I was hooked. I soon noticed that I wasn’t really getting the benefits of caffeine anymore and really just needed it to maintain a new sense of normal so I decided to detox.

Yesterday I cut back to one coffee and it’s now been over 24 hours without any caffeine.

The withdrawal symptoms are making it very hard to get my work done today, but I’m plugging on as the receptors in my brain learn to readjust from their caffeine fed state.

Caffeine detox isn’t as easy as one would think and I can definitely see the ties to addiction that caffeine possesses. There is also the little voice that keeps telling me to make a pot of coffee and all of this will go away.

However, I’m listening to the bigger voice telling me how great a cup of coffee will be at the end of my two month detox from caffeine.

Other Tips to Break Caffeine Addiction

As part of a wean, it may be better to substitute high-caffeine drinks with low-caffeine drinks. This is explained in detail here. Replacing coffee with green tea is a good suggestion (although sometimes it can be the sugar we are ‘addicted’ to – as well as the caffeine).

Another thing to do is to take power naps during the detox. However, that is not realistic for most of us. When was the last time your boss was happy with you taking a nap under your desk?

Need help reducing caffeine (or quitting entirely)?
  1. Wean CaffeineDownload our free eBook Awake - it'll help you understand what caffeine is (or isn't) doing for you.
  2. Consider trying the Wean Caffeine supplement (something we helped get to market). It helps avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms that occur when quitting caffeine.

Some people may benefit from a 12-step program created for those with addiction to caffeine. There’s an online program available at Caffeineaddictsanonymous.com.

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Written by Ted Kallmyer, last updated on January 30, 2021