Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Weeks Without - Part 3: No drinks but water, checking in

Failure Failure Failure. No caffeine = horrible idea.

The death headache that began around noon on day 1 didn't show any signs of backing off. It was the kind that starts out having a booming bass techno rave behind your eyes, then, just for fun, smacks you in the back of the head with a hammer at random. Add to that the nausea, muscle aches, fatigue, inability to concentrate and general bite-your-head-off attitude that I'd acquired, and I'm sure you can imagine that I was a joy to be around. Much like a cheery little ray of sunshine that travels through a magnifying glass and lights the forest on fire.

Anyone else out there tried to quit caffeine? I talked to a few people about my journey this week and the response I got was an overwhelming, "Why would you try to do that? Are you crazy?!"

The answer is yes. That was a bad idea.

Symptoms of withdrawal from caffeine (officially classified as a psychoactive stimulant drug along with amphetamine and antidepressants among others, btw) are not so weirdly similar to symptoms of "hard" drug withdrawal like heroin or cocaine. Depression, anxiety, paranoia, nausea, fatigue and muscle aches are some of the shared symptoms of withdrawal from both caffeine and heroin.

Check out these eye-opening statements from the interwebs:

"Kuhar explained that caffeine blocks receptors in the brain that can dilate blood vessels causing headaches. "Withdrawal symptoms can start from 12 to 20 hours after your last cup of coffee and peak about two days later and can last about as long as a week," Kuhar added.

It is not just coffee that can lead to caffeine withdrawal. While a 6-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, tea and cola have about 40 milligrams each, a bar of milk chocolate has about 10 milligrams and hot chocolate has about 7 milligrams." - CNN Health

"...caffeine is the most widely used behaviorally active drug in the world...Average daily intake of caffeine among caffeine consumers in the United States is about 280 milligrams, or about one to two mugs of coffee or three to five bottles of soft drink..."

A close friend recently shared with me that he felt it was harder to quit caffeine and cigarettes than it was to quit methamphetamine and cocaine. That's just one person's experience, but it's interesting to consider what's different about quitting something that is socially acceptable, readily accessible, and so ingrained in our daily lives. Wake up, drink coffee. Eat lunch, drink soda. Have dinner, drink tea. Relax before bed, drink hot cocoa.

Caffeine is also contained in many things we wouldn't think of (like yogurt and Excedrin), so even if you think you haven't had any, it's possible that you are an unwitting consumer.

Observations during a double-blind caffeine withdrawal study showed that although some subjects experienced mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, a few had complete break downs of daily function including missed work, errors at work and inability to care for children.

Honestly, I don't even want to think about caring for children without having had a cup of coffee or two.

You may be interested to know that the only reason I'm not screaming and crying while sitting in my sunny spot on the couch, staring at my glowing computer screen, while my neighbor mows their lawn with the loudest lawnmower ever, is because I've had two cups of coffee this morning.

I find myself sitting up straight and tall, researching effectively, confident about the day ahead, a perfect example of a functioning addict.

So weigh in on this for me. Who out there is addicted to caffeine? Is it a problem or is it a solution? Do we live in a society where this sort of pick-me-up is necessary?

Should we be worried when we haven't heard much from the scientific community about negative side effects of caffeine addiction?

Tell me what you think.


greg said...

caffeine seems to be a necessary evil in our lives so hopefully there aren't any bad side effects...unless you quit

~ selina ~ said...

The return of coffee allowed me to clean the house today, I don't think anyone who lives under this roof can say that's a bad thing.