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Caffeine Withdrawal

So, the adverse side effects of caffeine are intolerable and you’re considering going caffeine-free. Before you take that last sip of espresso, here are a few things to consider:

Gradually cut back on your caffeine intake

Our coffee/tea/soda habit has created a physical, emotional, and psychological dependence on caffeine. Abruptly stopping caffeine consumption will result in a period of discomfort and distress.

Wait for it

Withdrawal symptoms typically start 12 to 24 hours after stopping caffeine intake, peak at 20 to 51 hours, and may last up to two to nine days.

The temporary torments of a caffeine-free existence

People experience caffeine withdrawal differently, depending on their sensitivity to caffeine and their baseline daily dose. The symptoms and severity of symptoms vary from mild to extreme. 

Some common caffeine withdrawal symptoms are:

Headache. Caffeine withdrawal headache is the most common complaint among those who stop caffeine intake. The headache is temporary. It can be rapidly (usually 30 to 60 minutes) and often completely reversed with caffeine intake.

Decreased energy. Approximately one-third of individuals who abstain from caffeine may go through a transition period of sluggishness and fatigue.

Depressed mood. No coffee or tea equals unhappy campers. Studies report depressed mood among approximately 16% of those who abstain from caffeine.

Irritability. Roughly one in five individuals may feel on edge without their caffeine-induced dopamine release.

Flu-like symptoms. Some people report a constellation of symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, stiffness, and heavy feeling in the arms and legs.

Mental fogginess. Studies have shown that difficulty concentrating in the absence of caffeine is time-limited and the severity is associated with high daily caffeine dose before abstinence.


Juliano LM, Griffiths RR. A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2004 Oct;176(1):1-29.

Sajadi-Ernazarova KR, Anderson J, Dhakal A, et al. Caffeine Withdrawal. [Updated 2020 Jun 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.

Temple JL, Bernard C, Lipshultz SE, Czachor JD, Westphal JA, Mestre MA. The Safety of Ingested Caffeine: A Comprehensive Review. Front Psychiatry. 2017 May 26;8:80.

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