Last Updated on August 11, 2022 by Timothy Byron Smith
24 hours or so since your last cup of coffee, and you’re experiencing a foggy mind, lack of alertness, headaches, and tiredness. Are you addicted to caffeine? Probably. How long does it take to get addicted to caffeine? It depends on your tolerance. For some, it can take 10 to 15 days with a cup daily. Others would feel nothing even with 2 to 3 regular cups.
Caffeine is a stimulant found in certain amounts in your tea, coffee, soft drinks, chocolates, etc. If consumed in decent amounts, it can give you an energy boost, make you alert, reduce tiredness, etc. If abused, you can end up dealing with insomnia, headaches, and whatnot. But is caffeine really addictive?
If your mind is brimming with questions, then we’ve got all the answers for you right here!
Can You Get Addicted to Coffee?
Yes and no. Coffee addiction is more about dependence on caffeine. Caffeine causes you to perk up, and feel energetic and alert. So, every time you feel tired or drowsy, you desire coffee to perk you up again.
Although, it’s not really coffee but caffeine that you’re forming a dependence on. The caffeine content across different coffee varieties can vary. There can be as little as 2 milligrams of caffeine in coffee or 200 milligrams or more (or even in-between).
So, depending on the amount of caffeine you’re consuming through coffee and how frequently you consume it, you could get dependent on coffee. However, some people have a higher tolerance for caffeine. Even consuming multiple cups of coffee a day, they don’t feel dependent or face any withdrawal symptoms.
Why is Caffeine Addictive?
Why are you drawn to the caffeine-fueled sensations that coffee brings? The reason you feel dependent on caffeine is that it helps you focus and be energetic without you putting in much effort. It does the grunt work for you.
Basically, caffeine dissolves in the bloodstream and enters the brain. It stimulates the right parts that cause you to become alert, active, and energetic almost instantly. Additionally, it increases dopamine signaling in the brain (a chemical responsible for enhancing emotions, motivation, movement, etc.).
As you consume caffeine, the body starts to get used to it, causing you to consume more to achieve similar energy. As a result, one develops a dependency on caffeine so it can work its magic and instantly perk you up.
Caffeine Addiction Vs Dependence: What’s the Difference?
Most people characterize their constant need to consume caffeine as an addiction. However, experts classify this more as dependency rather than addiction per se.
Addiction is when you’re unable to quit despite the harmful consequences of something. Dependency is a physical reliance on something. You can give up but will experience withdrawal symptoms. Addiction mandates the stimulation of the brain’s reward circuit. Caffeine doesn’t do that.
So, while caffeine does raise the body’s dopamine levels, the rise is quite insignificant. Plus, it does not mess with the brain’s reward circuit like other actual addictive drugs do. So, technically, caffeine does not cause addiction but rather dependency.
How Does the Brain Become Addicted to Caffeine?
Caffeine very closely resembles a molecule naturally found in our brain known as adenosine. The resemblance is such that caffeine can actually fit into the receptors for adenosine, thereby blocking the space for it. When adenosine fits into these receptors, it causes tiredness, whereas caffeine has the opposite effect.
As caffeine fits into the receptors, it creates a sense of energy, activeness, and alertness, causing other stimulants like dopamine (pleasure molecule) to stimulate the brain better. While dopamine stimulation is quite insignificant, the brain becomes dependent on caffeine for alertness.
So, when you skip coffee one day, it creates withdrawal symptoms. Because it has created more receptors for the caffeine to fit into and is not getting the regular dosage of it to fill them.
How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Caffeine?
Depending on your caffeine intake, it can take 10 to 15 days or even 24 to 48 hours. Again caffeine content across coffees varies. The Nespresso caffeine content will differ from, let’s say, the caffeine in a Starbucks venti.
Caffeine dependence is influenced by the body’s tolerance toward caffeine. For some, the addiction can begin with a single cup of coffee. For others, multiple cups daily won’t make a dent.
Often, caffeine consumers build up a tolerance by regularly consuming it. However, this is much worse considering they now have to drink larger amounts of coffee to achieve the same effects. This further increases their dependence on coffee and, therefore, caffeine.
What Does Caffeine Addiction Feel Like?
A strong dependency on caffeine shows through various symptoms in the body. Scientifically speaking, excessive consumption of caffeine results in more and more caffeine receptors being created in the brain. And when those receptors are not getting the caffeine they were created for, they protest.
Since the body becomes dependent on caffeine for things such as staying active, being focused on any task, staying awake, etc., it somewhat forgets to execute these tasks without it. So, you don’t just crave caffeine, you require it to function.
The body’s demand for caffeine shows through symptoms like headaches. Plus, the constant idea of coffee and caffeine is on your mind before any energy or focus-requiring task. In fact, a hint of tiredness or exhaustion and your mind leaps to caffeine.
How Can I Drink Caffeine Without Getting Addicted?
Drinking caffeine without getting addicted is all about maintaining a balance. The first thing to remember is that caffeine is not addictive. However, if it’s a dependency that you want to avoid, then you’re going to have to regulate your consumption based on your tolerance.
There is no definite answer to what you can do to reduce dependency. While for some, a single cup a day can create dependency, others can tolerate 3 to 4 cups a day as well. So, observe your reaction. If you feel like caffeine is disturbing your sleep, and you’re unable to function without it, hold back a little.
Another option is to switch to decaffeinated coffee. You don’t have to give up coffee altogether. Simply opt for the decaffeinated, although that won’t be totally caffeine free, the amount of it will be way less than normal.
Relevant: Is Decaffeinated Coffee A Diuretic?
How Long Does It Take to Develop a Caffeine Tolerance?
According to expert dietitians, caffeine tolerance can develop within three to five days. That is if caffeine is being consumed regularly. However, this can vary from person to person based on their body’s natural tolerance level.
How Long Does It Take for Caffeine Tolerance to Reset?
Typically, the time taken by the human body to reset caffeine tolerance is 10 days. So, let’s say you’re trying to reduce your caffeine consumption and dependency, and you’ve reduced your dosage once. The next time you reduce it should be after ten days.
What Foods Counteract Caffeine?
Eating food that is rich in fiber content is known to counteract caffeine. So, slow digesting, fiber-rich foods such as beans, nuts, whole grains, and starchy vegetables, will be super helpful counteractive foods in the face of caffeine.
Many people also suggest eating a banana and taking foods rich in vitamin C to neutralize the effects of caffeine in the body.
How Long Does It Take to Become Caffeine Dependent?
There is no set answer to this question. You can become caffeine dependent within 3 to 4 days, a week, or even 10 to 15 days. It all depends on how strongly your body tolerates the caffeine it is being fed.
You’ll find out soon enough if you’ve become caffeine dependent when skipping on caffeine results in withdrawal symptoms for you.
How to Know If You are Caffeine Dependent?
Your body does not skip a beat about instantly informing you about its caffeine dependence. The moment you skip out on your daily dose of caffeine, your body will scream out with withdrawal symptoms. The most common symptoms caffeine-dependent people experience are:
- And Insomnia
So, if you’re a regular coffee drinker and are suddenly experiencing these symptoms out of the blue, ask yourself when you last had coffee.
How to Quit Caffeine Addiction?
Let’s tell you how NOT to quit caffeine addiction (dependency actually!), don’t make it abrupt! If you suddenly wipe your hands off caffeine, you will experience the worst withdrawal symptoms that will result in an instant relapse. Break this cycle.
Take things slowly. Cut back on caffeine gradually. If it’s 4 cups of coffee or caffeine fuelled liquid for you, reduce it to 3 a day for some time. Once you adjust to that, reduce further. Or, switch to decaffeinated coffee and pods. For instance, the caffeine in Nespresso decaf pods is far less than in regular pods.
There are certain chemical changes in the body when it develops a dependency on something, you can’t change that over time. It will take time to make your body get used to new habits.
Relevant: Does McDonald’s Have Decaf Iced Coffee?
Does Quitting Caffeine Help Anxiety?
Caffeine is also known to make one feel more anxious than normal. The disrupted sleep and increased heart rate and activity tend to increase anxiety. It is highly possible that quitting caffeine may reduce these effects and therefore help with anxiety.
When Do the Effects of Caffeine Withdrawal Start?
It is normal for caffeine withdrawal symptoms to begin 12 to 24 hours after the last caffeine intake. The more dependent you are on caffeine, the sooner the symptoms start. These symptoms can last up to several days if caffeine is not consumed or symptoms are not treated.
How Often Can I Have Caffeine and Still Avoid Addiction?
There are 500 billion cups of coffee consumed annually, on top of other caffeinated items. And yet, not everyone is caffeine-dependent! How? It’s because you can control this dependency.
The extent of your caffeine consumption plays a part here. Caffeine amounts vary across different caffeine foods and drinks. The caffeine in espresso will be significantly more than in regular coffee, for instance.
Try mixing it up a little. Don’t consume it every day, or at least not in large regular amounts. Occasional consumption of coffee instead of routine consumption can help avoid dependency. Additionally, treat your body with other beverages too! Shakes are not a bad idea.
Although, if you can’t sacrifice coffee, alternate between decaffeinated drinks every now and then.
So, how long does it take to get addicted to caffeine? First of all, caffeine isn’t addictive; you can only develop a dependency on it. Secondly, this dependency further depends on your consumption and tolerance level. Some can develop a dependency within a day or two, while others can take several days.
The important thing to remember is that dependency is different from addiction. You can easily reduce this dependency by regulating your consumption. Yes, there will be withdrawal symptoms, but if you take a slow and steady approach to it, you can easily quit caffeine dependency without quitting consumption altogether.
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Sophie is a 25 years old home barista, who enjoys brewing and drinking coffee with her mum. She had been writing articles for various lifestyle and coffee blogs for some time. Planning and conducting the required research, Sophie is the mastermind of EspressoCoffeeTime’s write-ups. To continue writing until well after midnight, she takes a good cup of espresso and that is it.