Consider a Caffeine Detox

Examine what your caffeine intake means for your long-term health, and consider cutting it from your daily routine.

| September/October 2019

Photo by Adobe Stock/

For a country so historically fixated on regulating drugs, there’s one that’s so central to the daily diet of adults that not only is its production unregulated, but so is its consumption. Its effects on our bodies aren’t yet fully understood, and the call to minimize our intake only newly considered. The drug is, of course, caffeine, and an impressive 90 percent of Americans consume it multiple times a day. Most of these jittering adults get over 280 milligrams in one day; a daily intake of over 400 milligrams is determined unsafe. This would be the equivalent of two energy drinks, four cups of coffee, or 10 cans of soda. On a long drive or when meeting a deadline, we’ve probably all teetered close to, if not right past, this limit. Starbucks alone offers four coffee drinks that exceed 400 milligrams. There, at the country’s most ubiquitous café, a venti (20-ounce) Medium Roast contains 410 milligrams, while a venti Blonde Roast contains 475.

Beginning in the early 2000s, the caffeine craze was hitting new and dangerous heights in America; the nation was universally afflicted by the “Great Starbucks Expansion,” which meant citizens didn’t even have to cross the street to get a cup of corporate joe. This was a new era full of 5-hour ENERGY drinks, Red Bulls, and caffeinated alcohol.

The fifth (and most recent) edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly referred to as the DSM-5) was released in 2013, coinciding with skyrocketing consumption of caffeinated drinks. To much shock, the DSM-5 added a disorder known as Caffeine Withdrawal. This was defined as the symptoms experienced by a person following sudden caffeine cessation: headaches, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, difficulty focusing, irritability, and even depression. For anyone whose first cup of coffee in the morning has been delayed for some cruel reason, these symptoms can sound all too familiar.

Signs of withdrawal begin to present themselves as early as 12 hours after cessation. Fifty percent of adults will experience headaches at this time, while 13 percent will experience “clinically significant distress or functional impairment,” according to several studies.

The authors of DSM-5 suggested in their 2013 bombshell that Caffeine Use Disorder be considered for further study. Researchers are now discovering that many caffeine users are unable to reduce consumption even when they know it is — in excess — bad for their health. They’ve found that those exceeding 400 milligrams a day can be at risk for cardiovascular and perinatal complications. Where there are withdrawal symptoms, there’s an addiction, and while an addiction to caffeine doesn’t often ruin lives, it’s worth addressing in order to better understand your personal health.



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