Researchers want to classify caffeine withdrawal as a mental disorder.

Interesting entry over at WebMD on efforts by researchers to have caffeine withdrawal reclassified as an official mental disorder.

A new study that analyzes some 170 years’ worth of research concludes that caffeine withdrawal is very real—producing enough physical symptoms and a disruption in daily life to classify it as a psychiatric disorder. Researchers are suggesting that caffeine withdrawal should be included in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), considered the bible of mental disorders.

“I don’t think this means anyone should be worried,” says study researcher Roland Griffiths, PhD, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “What it means is that the phenomenon of caffeine withdrawal is real and that when people don’t get their usual dose, they can suffer a range of withdrawal symptoms.”

Boy, don’t I know that. This past Sunday was migraine free thanks to a good supply of caffeinated products in the house and at my in-laws where we went on Sunday to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday, but the previous two Sundays were spent suffering the effects of withdrawal it would seem. Based on the symptoms listed in the report at least:

Griffiths’ analysis shows as little as one cup of coffee can cause an addiction and withdrawal from caffeine produces any of five clusters of symptoms in some people:

  • Headache, the most common symptom, which affects at least of 50% of people in caffeine withdrawal
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • “Unhappy” mood, depression, or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, and stiffness.

“Onset of these symptoms typically occurs within 12 to 24 hours of stopping caffeine and peaks one to two days after stopping,” Griffiths tells WebMD. “The duration is between two and nine days.”

A new revelation in Griffith’s analysis may be what upgrades caffeine withdrawal from its current “more study is needed” status to “disorder” status: These withdrawal symptoms are severe enough in about one in eight people to interfere with their ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

“The withdrawal symptoms can be mild or severe, but it’s estimated that 13% of people develop symptoms so significant that they can’t do what they normally would do—they can’t work, they can’t leave the house, they can’t function,” he says.

Been there, done that. Yep, I’m an addict, but at least it’s still legal and—contrary to many drugs—the world is probably safer if I drive while under its influence. According to the researchers it’s even a bit of a stretch to say that I’m addicted to it:

“I’m hesitant to even call caffeine an ‘addiction,’ because addiction has to do with the inability to stop or control,” says Hughes. “Most people can stop drinking coffee, even if they have symptoms when they do.”

Griffiths agrees. “The fact that caffeine produces physical dependence isn’t necessarily grounds in and of itself to quit,” he says. “But if you want to, the best way is with a gradual withdrawal—just slowly change the proportion of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee until you’re only drinking decaf. Don’t stop abruptly; that will likely cause more symptoms.”

The real message of Griffiths’ findings: “It’s that people should realize the possibility that caffeine withdrawal may be responsible for some symptoms,” says Hughes. “If you have recurring headaches or fatigue, you really to think that it may be due to caffeine withdrawal.”

So there! I’m not an addict because I can quit whenever I want to! I just don’t want to at the moment. Because I love it. It’s my preciousssssssss….

11 thoughts on “Researchers want to classify caffeine withdrawal as a mental disorder.

  1. I was laying in the tub one day and I heard my heart skip a beat. Thump-Thump-……-Thump. A little startled, I listened more carefully, and it did it again.

    I went to the doctor the next day and, before I could get a sentence out, he said, “are you a coffee drinker?”

    When I said I was, he said that I shouldn’t worry about it, but call him if my heart didn’t start back up sometime.

    Apparently caffeine withdrawl can also effect your heart rythm.

    I asked if I should quit coffee and he said not if I didn’t want to… just maintain the addiction properly. Don’t suddenly increase or decrease my caffeine intake.

    Given the vast choices for drugs, he felt coffee was about the safest addictiction around. I’m with him… if I quit coffee, I’d probably start smoking.

  2. Those are called heart palpitations and can be caused from consuming excessive stimulants such as caffeine, among many other things. I’ve had them on occasion when my intake has been higher than normal.

  3. Man, watch that caffeine! I had a bro and he had himself a little, well big, crack habit. Well just like most people who live by limited means he lost his job and in turn could’nt fund his $250/ day habit. This fool got so hard up for his drug that he began to take OTC ephhedra—one after another, he said it did’nt make him that high but it did take some of the cravings away. So my bro jus’ kept up like this for a couple of years. You know suckin’, stealin’, and livin’ the life of a nappy crackhead. Anyways one day I get a call from my bro’ and he is all agitated and upset. I tell him to calm down and take some crack or ephedra, and he just screams,“I can’t get it no more Eiiiii!!!! He then tells me that they don’t sell it no more and that his last trick a 300 lb trucker just kicked him out of the cab of his rig and stiffed him on the bj he had just given. He wanted to know if I could help him out? I told him that I did’nt give money to crackheads and that he should maybe try caffeine pills, maybe those would get him through this rough patch so he would stop bothering me. A few days go by and I’ve completely forgot about this waste of space when I get a phone call from—you guessed it—- jail. It my bro calling to say that he followed my advice and used caffeine pills, but that something had gone terribly wrong. I asked him what the hell happened and what did he want with me? He explained that the caffeine pills had worked and they had let him get through his rough patch, but now he wanted not just crack but caffeiene as well. His current troubles it seems began when he decided that coffee is a good source of caffeiene and that a good place to obtain said coffee was a local Krispy Kreme donut shop. This local KK constantly has a stream of police and sheriffs’ deputies coming through it. So dumbass decides to rob the KK, the only problem is he did’nt ask for money. Oh no! This addiction in corpreal form steals the coffee urn and runs down the main strip screaming at the top of his lungs about “french roast, now that’s the SHIT” Needless to say I was dumbfounded, and told him that anybody willing to risk their freedom for coffee should stay in jail for awhile as a kind of dumbass tax.
    So, Ha ya’ll thought a little heart arythmia is a big deal!

  4. This is going to sound strange and possibly cause some people reading it to utter words or sounds of amazement, but I’ve never had a drink of coffee. I don’t like the taste and even weirder, I don’t like the smell. I say weird, because it seems that everyone I’ve ever met that doesn’t drink coffee at least likes the smell.

  5. I don’t think that’s odd, Brooks.  As a child I hated the taste of coffee.  I still don’t like it black, but put some milk in it and then it tastes like it smells, and I DO like the smell.
    My oddly despised drink: beer.  I can’t stand the taste of beer.  Other alcohol is fine…I think it’s the grain factor.

    Anyway, I have arrythmia too…though I have had it all my life even when I wasn’t drinking coffee.  It was barely noticeable for a long time but got worse when I picked coffee up again this past year; I think coffee exacerbates an already existing problem.  My doc told me to stop drinking coffee, but I NEED coffee.  Dude.

  6. I had a huge Caffeine addiction for many years that got worse in college.  My drug of choice was Pepsi, not coffee and near the end I was drinking about 125ozs. a day.  No wonder my butt is so big!  I’m caffeine free now since August 7th and the withdrawls do suck, but I had just started some anti-depressants so it was pretty easy that time.  Is my message here that if you need to get off caffeine try talking Antidepressants?  I lead a sad life.

  7. On a side note, currently the DSM-IV categorizes being a smoker as a mental disorder.  So really I don’t pay too much attention to what the APA says.  They like to make things up.

  8. A few years ago, I was up to 175+oz of mountain dew code red a day. That’s a cube (24-pack) every other day, and several 32ozers from the liquor store thrown in. I couldn’t get up without downing a can or two. I couldn’t sleep without downing a can or two. I had one or two at each break at work.

    It was tough to quit. I tried several times to limit myself to 6 or 4 cans a day. About 2 years ago, when I was doing good, only drinking 4 cans of orange (caffiene-free) soda daily for 2 weeks, I just stopped. I’ve been mostly “clean” since. I don’t drink soda anymore. I never drank coffee.

    I agree that caffienne isn’t as addictive as cigarettes or heroine. Unlike people who have been off smokes for 2 years, I don’t feel any need to go back.

    But saying caffeinne isn’t addictive is against observation. Caffeinne doesn’t have the social effects of cigarrettes. The health effects are much more subtle. Unlike smokers, people who drink caffeinne (about 99% of Americans) truly feel no need or want to quit. They think they can if they want to. If Hughes tried, she’d be singing a different tune.

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