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….