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 Weaning Method (Recommended)

wean caffeine

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

This can be approximated by hand, or done expertly with an inexpensive product like the Wean Caffeine detox kit.

We recommend stepping down the dose about 10-30mg less every three days until a zero daily caffeine amount is achieved. This can be accomplished by just drinking less of your typical caffeinated beverage but Wean Caffeine is much more precise and systematic.

Practical 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, a person simply ceases to consume caffeine. 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 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.

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 with the detox process. One such supplement is L-theanine which is included in Wean Caffeine mentioned above.

Any other suggestions on how to do a caffeine detox?

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  • ted

    That’s pretty normal, check out our list of common caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

  • Carol Meals

    For me I find that Tulsi tea is a great replacement for coffee. It is an adaptogen that help build ones natural energy. . . by nourishment instead of the over stimulation from caffeine and its addictive nature. Helps with stress too. I love coffee but it doesn’t love me.

  • Carol Meals

    And whenever I stop coffee, to avoid the headache I would switch to Touché tea and then to green tea and then to herbal tea and Tulsi is my favorite now.

  • Rocky

    I do my best to have one caffeine free day a week, usually Sundays b/c it’s easier for me to squeeze in a nap if I have to. The one day a week seems to keep the detox symptoms away unless I had a very high consumption week. I normally drink 2-5 cups each morning. Once or twice a week I’ll knock back a red bull or diet coke in the afternoon but normally it’s no caffeine after lunch for me. Good luck everyone!

  • Apryle

    I need to get off this awful drug! I detoxes a few years bk and sent 3 days in bed. I got hooked again fom snapples. Needless to say, my migraines are awful and I am beyond moody. Wish me luck as I venture into the detox world!

  • Meg

    ugh. I have been reducing my caffeine and sugar for a few weeks now. In January, I stopped with the Diet and switched to one regular a day. Sometimes, I would also have coffee or iced tea. I am now at the point that I have MAYBE one half caf coffee in the afternoon and maybe one regular Coke (with sugar and not HFCS) a week. I have lost a few pounds but I feel TERRIBLE. I have migraine headaches constantly, I am irritable (and I teach middle school so that’s not helping me!), I am exhausted even though I sleep 9 hours or more at night. My whole body is aching, and my eyes hurt. I hope this ends soon:(

  • Heather Smeriglio

    I started getting migraines in the morning I thought it was stress but I was drinking my coffee later I was so irritable and angry pain in my back I got warm like I had the flu on Sunday no coffee in the house I couldn’t even go out and get it I had to send someone whom I was screaming at!!!! To hurry up nice words ugh fyi he left 4 min ago and I’m freaking

  • trisha

    i drank 12 oz of coffee on my way to work 12 oz on my fifteen energy drink on lunch with my food thats a forty five lunch then a 12 oz while on last break a mountain dew on my way home for work with a cigarette 8 oz an hour after i sat down from work coffee cups all around, but i needed a medical help they put me on predisone my back got stiff my neck got stiff they also prescribed me naproxen the predisone help and naproxen help i quit cold turkey out the blue i just woke up one day and didnt want no coffee no cigarette the coffee have me wanting the cigarette i just drank gatorade and organic tea unaware it was draining my system of coffee makn my headaches worse body stiffness i was stuck couldnt get out the bed i cried i was scooting on the floor cause if i sat up my head hurt more if i layed on my back and dont move i still have pains in my head still til this day if you are serios really try hard i felt like i had some kind of tumor in my head and i was on my last day

  • Nathan Webb

    I went cold turkey on caffeine at the beginning of the year. The first night following the day I started caffeine free I slept for 18 hours straight – my body trying to shout at me for being so behind on sleep maybe? 4, going 5 months into the detox, I “do” get tired but I never, ever get that tired that I’m nodding off at work etc. I found that napping helps a lot with the cold turkey method.. if I work from 6-3, I’ll have a nap at about 4ish for a maximum (usually) of 2 hours.

    I tend to find that doing this, I can then get back up, stay awake until about 1am, then get back up at 5 and repeat, totalling in about 6 hours sleep per day, and about 8 hours when I’m on a day off.

    When I drank caffeine on a regular and large basis I found that I needed at least 6-7 hours sleep just to stop me getting to the point where im falling sleep at work, but if I was on day off and I didn’t want to be sleepy during the day I’d be out cold for about 12-14 hours.

    I can only assume that this change to much less sleep now is due to caffeine not affecting my quality of sleep, and I over-all feel much much better off without it. I do have the occasional pick me up, but only ever in the morning and only if I really need it!

    Feel free to reply if anyone has any comments or thoughts to this!

  • seymour buttz

    The migraines are unbearable, inability to sleep isn’t acceptable for commercial pilots and having better luck with 200 mg Vivarin and 100mg NoDoz name brand or generic, are sold in most convenience stores. Whenever morning headaches arise, taking single 100mg NoDoz and experiencing immediate relief. Continuing 100mg therapy througout the day only after headache but waiting longer and struggling longer with headache every subsequent day and it’s working, Can’t accept nausea while in flight and will take two Viavarins if necessary to quash since it also accompanies migraines terrible enough to affect vision (one eye sees less light than the other, bad idea at night).
    Is working, intake caffeine declining the two weeks since, employer is aware of my regimen and supportive, they plan to adopt my anecdotal experiences when successful.

  • Scott

    I’m extremely addicted to soda and it’s awful. I’m talking about 4-5 cans a day, plus coffee in the morning. When I try to quit I get the awful migraines so I drink soda and the migraine goes away immediately. I have been cutting back but it’s hard. Cold turkey is for sure not the way to go unless you want an awful 2 weeks. What has been working for me this week is that I stop drinking and when i experience the headaches I’ll drink about 5 sips until it goes away. So far so good!

  • Hadeev

    I could never understand or empathize with caffeine addiction. In an average month, I drink two 18oz servings of half-decaf or mild roasted, filtered coffee. I’m not a fan of the smell of coffee, nor do I need it to keep me awake. I drink it when I feel very cold and need to generate some body heat. Tea is my caffeinated beverage of choice, and I drink it once or twice a week. The tea bag only sits in the cup for about 2 minutes, if that. Most days, I walk a mile or more, and drink tons of ice water. I’m addicted to crunching on fast food restaurant ice cubes. 🙁 Could be an iron deficiency thing maybe, but the ice addiction has kept me away from soda pop and juice. So far this year, I’ve dropped 30 pounds and 2 dress sizes by replacing sugary drinks with water. I don’t consume artificially sweetened beverages at all. Slowly but surely, I’m gravitating toward vegetarianism, and eat very little fried foods or red meat. I cook all my meals, and eat no processed food. I cook with sea salt or kosher salt because they have less sodium than table salt products. Being a non-insulin dependent, borderline diabetic is a motivating factor in all these adjustments. As a result of dietary changes, I no longer have to take pills for high blood pressure. As I lose more weight, I will be off of diabetes meds too. Oops, I willfully stopped taking them months ago. As a 51 year old black woman, I’m already in a high-risk category for health issues. I feel great, and look younger than my age, so I’m doing what I can to be around for a long time.

    On the flip side, I relocated back to the west coast 3 months ago and stay with a friend who has serious nicotine and caffeine addictions. She smokes several cigarettes and drinks a pot of coffee before she leaves for work. She has cases of Pepsi in the trunk of her car, and a few cans in the garage, where she goes to smoke. She doesn’t smoke all day when she’s at work, and rarely smokes in her car. As soon as she gets home, she puts on a pot of coffee and smokes every half hour until she goes to bed after midnight. Then she takes Ambien to fall asleep. Some evenings after work, and definitely on weekends, she consumes alcohol. She is a black woman, who is a year older than me, and I don’t want to imagine what the insides of her body must look like. Black people usually age well, but I can’t say the same for my friend. These addictions make her look several years older. I NEVER see her drink water, but some days, she smells like a locker room dude. People who live off of sweet, brown caffeinated beverages and nicotine are awfully grumpy to be around when they don’t have their daily fix – and in spite of showering, they smell weird/bad to me.

  • Tyler

    I find it strange that people have physical withdrawals from caffeine cessation. I was a 4-6, sometime even upwards of 8-10 cups a day dark roast coffee drinker and I simply quit because of the money it costed me everyday. The only thing that manifested itself as physical withdrawal was the pounding migraines which were easily quelled by a 200mg dose of Ibuprofen (Advil).

    After the first 3 days, the headaches subsided and I’d find myself almost brewing cups of coffee out of habit. I was, however, a former opiate addict so maybe my prior experience with dependence and withdrawal braced me for my caffeine cessation. Anyway, regardless of what substance you’re addicted to, withdrawals can be incredibly uncomfortable.

    Before quitting, I suggest you stabilize your intake. So, say you drink anywhere from 4-8 cups a day, try to make a point on only having 5 cups a day for a few weeks before quitting.

    Somethings that I can say, drawing on my experience with opiate withdrawals

    If experience any pain, whether is migraines or body aches, I highly suggest Ibuprofen as a pain killer. I would stay away from Excedrin due to its caffeine content. If you have liver issues, I would recommend staying away from Ibuprofen as well as other NSAIDs. Tylenol is probably one of the weakest pain relievers but, if its the only thing you can use… its worth negating /some/ of the pain.

    For constipation, Colace works well, but I wouldn’t rely on it for the entire duration of your withdrawal as it can irritate you GI tract with long term use.

    Sleepiness: L-Tyrosine (or N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, a more bio-available form of Tyrosine). Tyrosine works well for improving mood as well as cognitive performance under stressful conditions. I would start with 100mg of Tyrosine the first day as a test for hypersensitivity and wouldn’t go any higher then ~1g a day.

    Irritability: I would recommend Theanine and/or Magnesium Chelate supplements. Caffeine addiction can lead to a deficiency in magnesium, this is because caffeine acts as a diuretic and flushes magnesium (and many other nutrients) from the body.

    Nausea: Raw ginger, ginger tea, or ginger extracts. These work incredibly well for me when I detoxed from opiates.

    A good multi-vitamin would also probably benefit your reduced energy levels.

    Here are some links from Amazon for the supplements I mentioned. I do have slight bias to Jarrow’s Formula.

    L-Tyrosine: http://www.amazon.com/Jarrow-Formulas-N-Acetyl-Tyrosine-Capsules/dp/B0013OSJC8/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1372536745&sr=8-8&keywords=L-tyrosine
    Theanine: http://www.amazon.com/Jarrow-Formulas-Theanine-200mg-Capsules/dp/B001EHBF5W/ref=sr_1_1?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1372537009&sr=1-1&keywords=Theanine
    Magnesium: http://www.amazon.com/Doctors-Best-Absorption-Chelated-Magnesium/dp/B00014DAIE/ref=sr_1_2?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1372537344&sr=1-2&keywords=Doctors+Best+Magnesium
    Multi-Vitamin: http://www.amazon.com/Source-Naturals-Force-Multiple-Tablets/dp/B00466MVQK/ref=sr_1_6_m?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1372537444&sr=1-6&keywords=Source+Naturals+life+force

    Obviously, I would not go and buy /ALL/ of these products. Think about what symptoms are going to cause you the greatest struggle and buy according to that.

    I suggest at least picking up at least the multi-vitamin but, read the label, there is a lot of stuff packed into multi I listed. Make sure you don’t have allergies to the ingredients that are listed.

    My recommendation is: Multi, Theanine and Tyrosine

    Lastly, please do your own research on these supplements listed above, as with any supplements/herbs you ingest, there can be possible side-effects and allergies. I am not a doctor, nor have a medical license, everything said here is based on my research and experience. If in doubt about any of these supplements, DO NOT TAKE IT and ask your GP if its okay for you to take.

    Sorry, this post was alot longer then I intended it to be, I also rambled quite a bit.

  • Fuck You

    “Any better ideas to beat the caffeine detox?”

    Yeah cold turkey.

  • Kristen

    I guess I’m lucky. I abused energy drinks to combat a constant low level exhaustion at work for months. All I got when I stopped was tiredness but nothing else. The only thing so far that’s helped for low level chronic exhaustion is eating smaller (300-400 calories each) more frequent (4-5 a day) meals, cause I’ve found bigger meals make me need to nap. And taking power naps help sometimes. I’ve also switched to green tea which has substantially less (in the U.S. anyway) caffeine than coffee/energy drinks.

  • Bryce Livingston

    I’m on my fourth day going cold turkey after I realized I was experiencing some of caffeine’s scarier side effects – anxiety and paranoia. I had been drinking energy drinks that were each equivalent to three or four cups of coffee. I’ve had headaches and I’ve been sleeping a lot, but otherwise these four days have been some of my most productive and enjoyable of late.

  • Ian

    Allow me to point out the key with a small round dot on it, down on the lower right side of your keyboard. It’s called the “period,” and using it improves the comprehensibility of your writing. Another useful key is the rectangular one labeled “Shift,” which allows you to use capital letters. Try using the period, and then using the Shift key for the next letter you type.

  • Rochelle Bair Whitt

    That is exactly why I am quitting cold turkey. Today is day 1. But the anxiety and mood swings that I have been experiencing…making me think I am going crazy…..the withdrawl can’t possibly be any worse. I was drinking 4-6 16oz energy drinks a DAY!. Wish me luck and good luck to you!

  • Beaumont

    same here. The damned espresso kept feeding my anxiety.

  • Beaumont

    I just started today and the symptoms have begun: Headache, over-sleeping and of course being stressed. It was getting out of control…I had a cup of coffee with an espresso shot with extra sugar in the morning at home. Then on my lunch I would get a Medium iced coffee with 2 shots of espresso. It was my drug.

Last Modified: November 10, 2017