Caffeine is often seen as an addictive substance because it changes the chemistry of the brain. It makes your brain’s adenosine receptors think that the caffeine molecules are adenosine molecules. Because the structures of these two molecules are similar, it can indeed be quite confusing.
While adenosine molecules make the body tired and relaxed when bonded to a receptor, caffeine molecules do the opposite. When caffeine molecules take the place of the adenosine, they emit other natural stimulants, including dopamine.
Caffeine is nowhere near as addictive as other drugs. Some people call it addictive because it stimulates the nervous system, and because withdrawing from it could cause physical and psychological problems. However, it is more correct to call the need for excessive caffeine consumption a dependence.
The problem with being caffeine-dependent is that, if you suddenly withdraw, you may have trouble functioning mentally and physically. Additionally, it can throw off your sleep cycle, perpetuating mental health issues, and negative emotions.
Unhealthy Caffeine Dependence
You could experience the first few signs of caffeine-dependency when you withdraw from the stimulant entirely after a period of heavy daily intake or more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.
If you withdraw from caffeine, symptoms may last from 7-12 days. However, only 50% of the population who consumes caffeine will experience withdrawal symptoms. Still, this does not mean you should continue to indulge yourself with more than the recommended amount of caffeine a day.
Common Symptoms of Caffeine Dependence
Many of these symptoms may also occur in people who do not abruptly withdraw from caffeine yet have a high caffeine intake. These are:
- fatigue or lethargy
- inability to concentrate
- digestion issues like irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn and ulcers
- muscle cramps and aches
Additionally, long-term intake of high levels of caffeine could put you at risk of various conditions. Risks may include heart problems and pregnancy risks. Do you have pre-existing conditions like anxiety, acid reflux, and high blood pressure? Regularly drinking highly caffeinated drinks could aggravate your condition.
There are other indications that you are caffeine dependent besides withdrawal symptoms. One of these indicators is insomnia. If you consume caffeine so late into the day that you can’t fall asleep at night, it could throw off your circadian rhythm. This affects your mood and productivity when you wake up each day.
Another sign that you could be caffeine-dependent is your tolerance to caffeine is increasing. The more caffeine you consume now, the more you need to consume later to the kick or boost you need.
Many caffeine drinkers are looking to get caffeine’s positive effects like increased metabolism, energy, alertness, and concentration. Tolerance to caffeine also depends on size and body weight. In this respect, it is like alcohol.
You are also considered caffeine-dependent if you are having trouble decreasing your intake of caffeinated drinks, drugs, and foods. Furthermore, if the thought of not having caffeine is unbearable, and causes anxiety, then you may be depending too much on it.
Ways to Reduce Caffeine Dependence
Do you think you have an unhealthy relationship with caffeine? Don’t worry. There are natural ways to reduce your dependence on caffeine.
Some of these include gradually reducing your consumption of it. Consider drinking eight-ounce glasses of water a day and only having caffeine in the morning. Additionally, try sleeping seven to nine hours at night, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet.
The general rule for foods is to consume everything in moderation. This includes caffeine.
It is also important to be aware of caffeine sources. Natural sources of caffeine are tea, coffee, kola nuts, guarana, yerba mate, and cocoa beans. Other sources include energy drinks and some prescription and non-prescription drugs. The larger concentrations of caffeine are in the more well-known sources, like coffee. Tracking your caffeine intake is the most effective way to reduce your dependence on it.