Caffeine Detox: How to Quit Caffeine and Break the Addiction

quitting-caffeine

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.

There are generally two ways to detox from caffeine and we describe each of those methods below.

Two Methods for Quitting Caffeine

1. The Cold Turkey Method

With this method, a person simply ceases to consume caffeine. While this can be the fastest way to detox, it does come with a price.

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.
  • Can lead to loss in productivity.
  • Produces more of a tendency to give up.
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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 to 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.

2. The Weaning Method

With this method, instead of quitting caffeine all at once, the person gradually reduces the amount of caffeine he/she is consuming daily.

We recommend stepping down the dose about 50mg less every two days until the zero daily caffeine amount is achieved. This can be achieved by just drinking less of your typical caffeinated beverage or by drinking a less caffeinated alternative.

Practical Examples:

  • Coffee should be reduced by a 1/4 of a cup each day or reduce from a 16 fl. oz. to a 12 fl. oz. cup, then 8 fl. oz. etc. of take out coffee (however, use the same brand throughout).
  • Energy Drinks can be reduced by about 1 half a can every two days.
  • Soda can be reduced by cutting back a can every two days or by a half a bottle if drinking a 16 fl.oz. size.
  • Tea can be reduced by cutting back 1 cup every two days.

Pros:

  • Withdrawal symptoms are much less severe.
  • 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.

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.

A Personal Caffeine Detox Story

Ok, I feel lousy.caffeine-detox

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

I have half a headache and I’m cranky. Why?

Well, thanks for asking. 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 need to return to the time before I had such a tolerance of 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 normal level of  tiredness so I decided to detox.

Yesterday I cut back to one coffee and it’s 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 week detox from caffeine.

Other Tips to Break Caffeine Addiction

HealthyEater.com has a great piece on weaning off of coffee. They believe going cold turkey is not a good idea and supplementing higher caffeine items with lower caffeine can really help. They suggest replacing a coffee with green tea.

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?

There are also some supplements that claim to help detox the body from caffeine, but we are researching those before we make any recommendations on that front.

Any other suggestions on how to do a caffeine detox?

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  • Ed

    I’m sitting at school trying to decide whether to quit caffeine for a few days or grab a cup to relieve my symptoms right now. I could really use a nice big cup of 100% Colombian, no sugar, no cream right now.

  • dave

    Ed, the best thing to do is gradually decrease your caffeine intake, not trying to quit cold turkey if you were consuming a lot unless you have at least a couple days when you can completely vegetate without need to get anything done or be alert.

  • David

    Great article. I’ve been thinking about a caffeine detox. I have major problems with my eyes when I go without caffeine for more then 12 hours. I’ve cut down on my intake and it has greatly improved my eye problems. But I love the smell and taste of coffee.

  • bradley

    i now drink juices and coffee; i have no desire for it anymore.

  • Blue Phoenix

    Quitting cold turkey. I have a compromised adrenal system from my “habit”, chronic kidney and secondary uti’s as a result as well. Sure not everyone has this response, but my withdraw is a reminder of how addicted I have become. Serious, “Mediterranean-style, the spoon could stand up in my coffee addiction.” I use to tell myself that my “increased productivity” was worth the physical cost. It isn’t. This is my third day, I have been having every symptom, actually, associated with severe caffeine dependence, just a reminder, really, that once I get clean, teas, and mostly herbal, are all I can handle.

  • jennifer

    On my second day with no caffine and I think Im going to die. My head hurts so bad i believe its going to fall off my shoulders.

  • ted

    Hang in there, take some ibuprofen and it will get better 🙂

  • KunI

    I know the feelings, my headache was so bad I had to make another cup of coffee. The detox sound like something that will work.. Am drinking tasters choice right now. But all in all hang in there guys I will do the same.

  • dawn carter mallin

    After 25 years off real coffee, I got seriously hooked again over the past year. Coffee tastes so fabulous. I’m stopping again for other reasons. It’s day 5 and I feel I could fall asleep standing up, yet I can’t go to sleep at night and when I do I wake up after a few hours. Today I did’nt have the headache but the grogginess persists. I have shut myself in due to the lack of focus.

  • Mike Budd

    Maybe you went too far.
    with friends doctors we did a complete review of their risks and benefits through 40 medical studies, the conclusion is that benefits exceed risks by far in case of a moderate coffee or caffeine consumption. Moderate…

  • Dee

    What about decaf? I have downgraded to decaf and i seem to be doing ok so far? I know decaf still has a little caffiene in it.

  • ted

    Yes it does have a little. I think it’s fine but it depends on the reason for your detox. If your goal is to eliminate all caffeine, then you may have give up decaf too.

  • Meg

    Ugh – I am in my first 36 hours w/o coffee. I only had two cups per day, but I realize how hooked I have been. Headache set in around 1PM after crushing tiredness hit at 11AM. The point of quitting was to cleanse, but am thinking caffeine might beat copious amounts of ibuprophen at this point!!

  • Erin

    I quit yesterday. I only normally have 1 coke a day but I was starting to think it was causing my migraines. Now I have one due to lack of caffeine. I felt amazing yesterday and slept really good and for once didn’t wake up with a migraine, but today is another story. I’m irritable and my head feels like it’s going to explode. Trying to drink lots of water to try to wash it out. I read that you can try taking a magnesium and calcium supplement to help with withdrawals. Going to try it. Yikes this is rough.

  • C H Ingoldby

    I’m off the caffeine now. Got into the habit of drinking coffee and tea constantly throughout the day and realised that I needed it just to function normally. I don’t like the idea of being dependent on anything and have some time off so i’ve gone cold turkey.

    3 days of nagging headaches, it got worse yesterday but feeling much better today. Maybe 3 days is all it takes for me. I’m going to stick to decaf and herbal teas for a few days to see how I feel.

  • Maria Dudley

    I quit drinking coffee yesterday!!! Oh my God I think I’m dying! I am a serious coffee drinker. Two pots a day (from the time I wake up to a cup on my night stand at bed time) of 8 O’Clock breakfast blend. I love my coffee. The flavor; the comfort. I feel completely lost and confused right now. I’m walking in circles (literally), but I’m so tired. I want to sleep, but I’m restless and full of anxiety. Plus, I have six kids ranging from 5-19 and if they even move I’m screaming. I guess I just need to vent to people that understand.

  • ted

    Wow, that sounds horrible. I think in a severe case like yours, you should ween yourself off of caffeine slowly. Perhaps cut back to one pot and then so on.. Not a fun way to spend the holidays 🙂

  • P.J.

    I have detoxed a couple of times. I start kinda cold turkey. With a K-cup maker, I brew a cup after lunch NOT breakfast, after lunch is when it seems the headaches start. After I brew a cup, I dump half of that cup down the drain. So I am maybe getting 5 oz at most. After a few days I go to one day on and one day off. Give it a try and let me know. DON’T give up.

  • Cari

    I used to drink 6+ diet cokes a day plus the double shot of espresso.. enough was enough.. so last Thursday I had one shot of espresso and then that was it… My body hurts, my lower back pain shoots down to my legs preventing me from sleeping; however I am sooo tired. I wish I could cut down, but since I have been drinking diet coke since middle school and I am now 37 years old it never happened. This is the longest time I have gone without Diet Coke, some days I don’t think I can make it and wonder if it’s worth it and then I think how stupid this is that I can’t even give up drinking Diet Coke. Thank goodness for carbonated water. Good Luck to all that try this ……

  • Why am I so tired??

    Can somebody help me understand why I’m exhausted? I am sleeping a bit too much. Quit caffeine for many reasons one being I envy those that wake up and do not need to hook up the coffee iv. Also it is a trigger for smoking which I gave up as well. This is day 3 and I’m wondering why I’m just exhausted. I am sleeping normally 8-9 hours a night then get up for a few hours then go take a nap for a couple of hours. Hopefully this will get better?? Maybe I’m just mental?

Last Modified: July 26, 2016