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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  • Deborah

    Does anybody gain weight from the anxiety coffee brings?

  • Carlee

    I drink 3 monster energy drinks a day and drink a mountain dew, and as many dr. peppers as I can get my hands on. If not have at least one monster by lunchtime i have a migraine.

  • Rene

    I feel so bad for you. I need a daily monster as well. I have tried to quit on several occasions and end up just going back. The headaches are the worst!

  • Brian Summy

    If there are any Christians on this thread, the deliverance ministry can quickly bring relief in prayer. Seek out a local pastor or deliverance team in your area. Caff is no difference than casting out Heroine for example. It works.

  • Amy

    I’m 17 and think I’m addicted to caffeine. I usually drink about 5-6 cans of any energy drink I can get a hold of and drink loads of fizzy juice while in work if I run out. I work real early so when I’m tired a couple of red bulls helps me be alert for work. I tried to stop drinking it, tried drinking Ribena instead for a while but I felt miserable, tired, sick, had chest pains and was really grumpy but as soon as I had caffiene it made me feel better almost instantly. Could this be what it is?

  • ekdikeo

    Drink a LOT of water. I bought a super nice 32oz water bottle, and picked up the “Water Your Body” app on Android, and set it’s alarm to the most obnoxious one it had. Drink from the water bottle throughout the day, every time the alarm on the app goes off, drain it and refill. I had virtually no withdrawl symptoms. Now back to drinking caffeine somewhat regularly, but much smaller amounts, and drinking lots of water still. The point was to break my soda habit that I’ve had all my life — I hadn’t actually intentionally drank plain water in years.

  • Ted

    Great job, sounds like a much healthier lifestyle and thanks for the tip.

  • Ted

    Hi Amy, yes your symptoms are from caffeine withdrawal. Try cutting back gradually as described above.

  • stairbob

    How long does it take to get totally clear? In the past I have weaned down slowly (probably even less than 50mg difference per day) and gotten down to zero for 2 weeks or more, and still never thought I felt as good as the “normal” from my 4-5 cup/day habit, and so eventually I started drinking it again.

  • Ted

    With a 4-5 cup of coffee/day habit, it would take you around 2 months to feel normal after quitting. Remember you have actually adjusted your brain and body’s physiology with the caffeine. It takes time for your brain and body to get back to normal functioning. Not fun, I know.

  • stairbob

    Okay, wow, thanks for your reply. It’s good to know that even after a month, it’s usual to not feel quite right.

    Is it a good strategy to draw it out even longer? For example, cut back to 4 cups a day over a week, then cut back to 3 a day over the next week, and so on? Would this minimize the “time to normal” after stopping caffeine completely?

  • Ted

    You could give it a try. I don’t have any experience doing it that way, but I would love to see how it worked for you if you decide to go that route.

  • stairbob

    Will do, thanks. My current strategy is to just dial it back gradually and see how it goes. Seems like once/if I get to zero the best bet will be to just ride it out, otherwise i’ll just be prolonging the agony.

  • Alice in Wonder

    Went cold turkey on BOTH caffeine and cigarettes last week after +++ years heavy addiction to both. Cannot drink coffee ( nor would I want to) without a ciggie – so OUT for both. Since the double-quit, finding it very hard to concentrate, forgetful and lethargic-ish, can hardly type this post ( very very unlike me) Does this pass? Would be so grateful for any tips…thank you!

  • Jennifer

    Am detoxing from coffee right now, by weaning down to tea. I didn’t drink much (1-2 cups in the morning) but it was coupled with sugar so getting down to having one cup on the weekends would be great.
    Many of the comments here make me think of Alan Carr’s “Easy Way to Stop Smoking”. I don’t smoke but read it because I sensed there would be universal principles (I have some eating issues). The biggest ‘monster’ with smoking is not the nicotine, but what we associate with it – social confidence, routine, a ‘boost’, etc. I reckon it’s the same with coffee. He talks about getting back to the place where you didn’t need cigs to feel this way. We think cigs (coffee) solve the problem but it’s the cigs (coffee) causing the problem (edginess etc) in the first place!
    Really cool to make the association with coffee after reading the comments below. Good luck everyone!

  • Ted

    I’ll be honest and say the next couple of weeks to a month are going to be rough for you. Quitting caffeine is one thing, but quitting nicotine is a whole other ball game. There’s no shame in gradually detoxing from both. It will probably be better for your productivity and your relationships if you get some nicotine patches and use them to gradually cut back as well as gradually cut back coffee as described above.

  • Moll-E

    No, but my anxiety is a top reason for me quitting.

  • dave

    ugh.

  • ESPRESSOLOVER

    how much time will my body need before i recover back from a cold turkey stop of caffeine from 5 cups a day basically 300ml espresso .. thanks

  • Ted

    It will probably be 1-2 weeks before you feel pretty good and then 1 month before you feel “normal’ without caffeine, but this is just a rough estimate since everyone is different.

Last Modified: November 10, 2017