How to cope if you constantly crave coffee
Pouring yourself a morning cup of coffee is part of the daily routine for many people. In fact, 64 percent of Americans age 18 or over drink a cup of coffee daily.
However, to realize the full benefits of coffee, it must be consumed in moderation. For many people, coffee is the main source of caffeine, a drug that serves as a central nervous system stimulant. It’s the world’s most used psychoactive drug.
According to a recent study, while caffeine is not considered an “abuse drug”, the effects of caffeine evoke signals and symptoms in you that can be a cause for concern – in particular, when you try to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal, seeking out caffeine can become a vicious cycle.
“Patients who have trouble sleeping tend to also struggle with energy during the next day,” says Dr. Milind Mehta, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction at Aurora Health Care. “As their night sleep is not refreshing, they will utilize the most common stimulant – caffeine – to improve their focus and energy. The effects start wearing off, which requires frequent administrations of [caffeine] to keep up the performance. This usually results in delayed onset and shorter duration of sleep – the same effects which are desirable during day time then become undesirable at night.”
Like any other drug, the clearest evidence that you’re addicted to caffeine is that you experience withdrawal symptoms when you’re taking it. The most common symptom is a headache, but other symptoms can also include irritability, lack of concentration, depression, fatigue, lethargy and even nausea and vomiting.
But you can mitigate the withdrawal symptoms and reduce your dependency on caffeine:
- Reduce your intake over time. If you are drinking eight cups a day, reduce it to six, then four, etc. over the course of a few weeks.
- Slowly switch to decaf. If you love the taste of coffee, start by blending decaf and regular coffee before moving to only decaf.
- Consider drinking lower caffeine or no-caffeine tea. A cup of coffee contains between 65- 150 mg of caffeine. By comparison, green tea contains 30 mg, and white tea contains 15-20 mg of caffeine per cup. Herbal teas like chamomile are caffeine-free.
“People need to keep the adverse effects of caffeine in mind when consuming a significant quantity of it,” said Dr. Mehta. “Therefore, I would recommend daily intake of no more than 250mg per day.”
While drinking coffee can increase your productivity and benefit your health, there is a risk of dependence, which can be detrimental. Monitoring and reducing your caffeine intake enables you to harness its benefits while keeping your health and well-being in check.
About the Author
Ryann Greve, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. She has 15+ years of marketing and communications experience across a variety of industries, including healthcare. Ryann has a BS in Journalism from Northwestern University and a MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. Outside of work, you can find her practicing and teaching yoga, coaching youth basketball, expanding her cooking horizons, and spending time with her husband and two sons.