Caffeine is a stimulant that increases alertness and enhances concentration in consumers. However, regular ingestion of the drug alters the brain’s chemical makeup, and can cause fatigue, headaches, and nausea when attempting to quit.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that has the ability to enhance concentration, increase metabolism, and boost mood. Whether it comes from coffee, tea, energy drinks, or soda, many people feel like they “need” caffeine in the morning to increase alertness and the motivation to work. More than 90% of adults regularly drink caffeine in the United States, consuming an average of 200 mg of caffeine per day – the equivalent of two 6-ounce coffees or five 12-ounce cans of soft drinks. In most cases, drinking caffeinated beverages is a relatively safe, non-harmful habit; however, when the need for caffeine crosses the line from a pleasant pick-me-up to a daily necessity, it can be indicative of an addiction.

Signs of a Caffeine Addiction

Rather than the actual amount of caffeine consumed per day, caffeine addiction is characterized by the way that the substance affects an individual’s day-to-day functioning. The severity of the addiction is calculated based on how distressed someone feels when they want caffeine and can’t get it, and how much of a disruption this causes in their daily life.

The 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not recognize caffeine addiction as a substance abuse disorder, but it does recognize it as a condition for future study. According to the DSM-V, problematic caffeine consumption is characterized by at least three of the following criteria:

  • A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control caffeine use
  • Continued caffeine use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by caffeine
  • Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
    • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for caffeine
    • Caffeine (or a closely related substance) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Caffeine is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
  • Recurrent caffeine use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home
  • Continued caffeine use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of caffeine
  • Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
    • A need for markedly increased amounts of caffeine to achieve desired effect
    • Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of caffeine
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain caffeine, use caffeine, or recover from its effects
  • Craving or a strong desire or urge to use caffeine

Most experts recommend that adults should consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day – the equivalent of approximately four cups of coffee. If someone is regularly drinking more than that, he or she may be at risk of negative side effects, including: sleep disruption, migraines and other headaches, irritability, quickened heartbeat, muscle tremors, nervousness, and nausea. For some people, those side effects can kick in with even fewer cups, as caffeine tolerance is highly individual. If someone is experiencing these side effects, has trouble controlling consumption, or feels totally out of sorts when unable to get their “fix,” that individual is most likely dependent on caffeine and should cut back.

Finding Treatment for Caffeine Addiction

Caffeine has addictive properties that may lead to physical dependence. People that regularly consume caffeine need to make responsible and good choices when it comes to consumption, such as limiting intake to only one or two cups of coffee a day. Caffeine addiction is more likely to occur in someone that’s also suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as insomnia or an eating disorder, and this can make it harder for him or her to stop. If someone that you love has a caffeine addiction or another complicating disorder, contact a dedicated treatment specialist today and learn about potential treatment options.

Source: Addiction Center