Caffeine Withdrawals: What REALLY Happens to Your Body

Here's how you know you've officially reached addiction levels.

Coffee Cup, Caffeine Withdrawals
Image: AJ Garcia via Unsplash

It wakes you up in the morning, boosts your energy, and can even help prevent hair loss, but how much caffeine is too much? Science has already proved that coffee drinkers tend to live longer than those who don’t opt for a daily cup of java but if you choose to limit or eliminate your caffeine intake, be prepared for some withdrawals.

While not the same as drug withdrawals, cutting out coffee cold turkey can have some similar side effects, especially when you’re drinking way too much of it.


If you’ve become accustomed to starting your day off with a cup (or three — guilty here!), your body naturally wakes up craving it. And if you’ve gone more than a day without it, you may immediately start to feel the pangs of the addiction.

“You’re basically going through withdrawal,” Michael J. Kuhar, PhD, professor of neuropharmacology at Emory University, tells Health.com. “While you can’t become addicted to caffeine in the same sense as people become addicted to drugs, your body can become dependent on it. And since it takes about 24 hours for caffeine to completely leave your system, it makes sense that you wake up craving it.”

Since coffee is a stimulant, when you skip your usual fix, you can become down, drowsy, sluggish, clumsy and irritable. In fact, you can even start to hate the world—and according to Kuhar it’s not in your head.

“Lots of people have their coffee in the morning when they read the newspaper, or when they meet up with friends, and it’s viewed as this very enjoyable moment,” he says. “And the feelings you get from caffeine reinforce that association. It’s embedded in our lives as this friendly and socially acceptable ritual.”

The happy feelings of heading to your favorite coffee shop, interacting with friends, and sipping on a hot or iced cup of coffee while you chat with your loved ones, immediately comes to mind — maybe subconsciously — when you think of the drink. And that all contributes to the harsh feelings your experience when you decide to cut it out of your daily diet.

But it doesn’t end there. Researchers reveal, cutting out caffeine can make a person experience flu-like symptoms, from headaches to even nausea and vomiting. But while these symptoms vary in length by person, the science does agree: it’s best to wean yourself off gradually, decreasing the pains that come with a quick elimination.

If the idea of quitting cold turkey gives you the cold sweats, use these 7 tricks to cut back slowly, and choose replacement drinks that’ll help you transition off of it while still giving you the hit you need.