Caffeine Addiction Is a Mental Disorder, Doctors Say

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In an interview, Griffiths said that the studies had demonstrated that people who take in as little as a hundred milligrams of caffeine per day—about the amount in half a cup of coffee—can acquire a physical dependence that would trigger withdrawal symptoms.

"Although most regular caffeine users know that caffeine is a mild stimulant, many are not aware that abrupt cessation can sometimes produce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms," Griffiths said.

The studies suggested five clusters of common withdrawal symptoms:
• Headache
• Fatigue or drowsiness
• Depression or irritability
• Difficulty in concentrating
• Flulike symptoms including nausea, muscle pain, and stiffness

Griffiths said that the studies consistently indicated that at least half of regular caffeine consumers would experience withdrawal symptoms if they abstained. And, he added, that the research showed that symptoms could flare up regardless of what type of caffeine product was used.

"With regard to severity, 13 percent of people had clinically significant distress or functional impairment," Griffiths added. "At its worst, caffeine withdrawal involved missing work, canceling social functions, and going to bed with the belief that they had the flu."

The onset of symptoms, research indicated, occurred within 12 to 24 hours after stopping caffeine intake. Peak unpleasantness occurred within the first two days, but other symptoms could continue for as long as nine days.

An interesting finding of the research, Griffiths said, is that regular caffeine consumers may use it more to stave off withdrawal symptoms than to simply enjoy the product.

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