Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Caffeine Addiction

Addiction to caffeine is one of the most prevalent addictions in the world today. It is also one of the least spoken of. Most likely it is due to the fact that it is seen as being a harmless ingredient in common drinks such as coffee, tea, soda, and even that cup of hot cocoa. The newest form that I am aware of is the energy drinks that are loaded with caffeine.

I was raised on caffeine. Some of my earliest memories are of when I was about 5 yrs. old. I remember on a very regular basis we would always get a "bedtime snack" before going to bed. I would sit on the floor between the couch and coffee table with a bowl of popcorn or chips on the coffee table and a tall glass bottle of Pepsi. As a parent, I can't imagine giving a child a bottle of soda immediately before sending them to bed. It is a wonder I ever fell asleep as a child! Later, I began drinking coffee at an early age. Living on a small farm, we had morning chores before catching the school bus and on the cold mornings especially, we would often grab a cup of coffee as it was always available.

When I was truck driving with my Beloved, I was drinking alot of coffee or soda that contained caffeine. Long hours of driving, the caffeine was a benefit in helping you to stay awake. If the caffeine itself didn't keep you awake, the need for finding a rest area certainly did! LOL

One of the downfalls with the caffeine though is that you can become addicted to it. According to MedicineNet.com, caffeine is the most common psychoactive drug in the world. Caffeine takes affect in the body about 30 minutes after it is ingested and it's effects are diminishing within 3 hours. Caffeine affects several areas of the body's systems: mood, stamina, the cerebral vascular system, and gastric and colonic activity.

There is a simple way to know if you are addicted to caffeine. In the studies by the American Psychiatric Association, they found that it is easiest to diagose a caffeine addiction by seeing what if any withdrawal symptoms a person has when they refrain from ingesting caffeine. Some of the symptoms include: headaches, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness/attentiveness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness/well-being, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and feeling foggy/not clearheaded. In their study, they found that the withdrawal symptoms start to appear about 12-24 hours after the person stops ingesting caffeine. The symptoms can peak at about 20-51 hours. The total withdrawal period can last 2-9 days. Experts suggest that if you feel the need to decrease your caffeine intact or omit it all together, do it very slowly to avoid the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Now that I have given you all the information, I will give you the reason behind this post. Yesterday (Monday) I awoke with a terrible headache that had me both light and sound sensitive. I tried everything to get rid of it. I made sure that I ate well as sometimes people get headaches when hungry. I took Tylenol. Even took a long soak in a bubble bath while the kids were napping. Nothing worked. It was afternoon when I finally realized the cause. On Sunday, we were rushed getting rady for Church and I never drank any coffee. I also didn't have my usual cups of coffee throughout the day. The only caffeine I had was a glass of Pepsi with lunch. I had gone over 24 hours without my usual "caffeine fix" for the day. By evening, I had drank a couple of cups of strong coffee and the headache, though still present, was becoming a dull ache and no longer the sharp pain it had been. This is when I realized just how bad my addiction to caffeine is. I have always joked about being addicted to caffeine. I have tried going off of it "cold turkey" in past years, only to get the severe headaches, which also brought on a short temper, and a problem with lack of concentration. Last night, I decided enough is enough. Up until recently when we bought our stovetop perculator, we were using a 30-cup capacity coffee urn like the ones you would see at a business or church's kitchen. It was not unusual for me to drink the entire amount by myself while Joe was at work.

I am now trying to ease myself off caffeine. I am following the recommendations to do it slowly. I am hoping that by doing so, I will be able to get off the caffeine without dealing with all the nasty withdrawal symptoms. So far today, the headache that I had yesterday is completely gone.

Our stovetop coffee perculator holds 6 cups (3 mug's worth) of coffee. Today, I made a pot of coffee and am currently on my second mug. Once I am finished with the 3rd mug, I am done drinking coffee for the day. I have herb teas that I drink that do not contain caffeine. Just this alone will reduce my daily coffee intact down significantly as I normally make 2-3 pots of coffee a day just for myself before Joe gets home from work in the afternoon. My plan is to cut back one cup of coffee each week for the next few weeks. I will still drink my cup of hot cocoa in the evenings with Joe as this contains only a very small amount of caffeine and not enough to cause me problems.

I am praying that the Lord help me in this. I have tried getting off the caffeine before without success. I will post here my progress as I go along.