Kim Leadley, from Cumberland, Maine had one to two Starbucks Grande coffees everyday. When she decided to kick the habit she found herself suffering from the “I can’t work-think-or-function” kind of headaches. After a few days of excruciating pain she “fell off the wagon” and began her coffee routine again. “The headaches did make me think there was something to be said for caffeine addiction,” she said.

Believe it or not, caffeine is now included in two official diagnoses in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly known as the DSM-5. The diagnoses include caffeine intoxication and withdrawal. While caffeine is addictive, many studies have found it to contain health benefits. However, some experts believe people with anxiety, high blood pressure, insomnia and diabetes should avoid it. For people who get adverse effects such as the jitters, typically linked with caffeine intoxication, scaling back consumption is a good idea. To be diagnosed with caffeine withdrawal, a  person must experience three of the following symptoms within 24 hours of reducing or stopping caffeine intake. These include headache, fatigue or drowsiness, depressed mood or irritability, difficulty concentrating, and flulike symptoms like muscle pain or nausea.

Roland Griffiths, a professor in the psychiatry and neuroscience department at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine runs a caffeine treatment clinic for patients with conditions made worse by caffeine consumption. “We get them to gradually reduce their caffeine intake over a period of weeks,” said Dr. Griffiths. Mixing caffeinated drinks with decaffeinated drinks, and cutting caffeine by about 25% each week works well. Dr. Griffiths sees withdrawal producing headaches and lots of fatigue and inability to concentrate. “That’s why I think the prudent and the least painful way to do it is fade caffeine use out over time.”

Asked if he consumed caffeine, he said he’ll have it maybe once a week, in relatively small doses. “If I’m sleep deprived, it’s a really effective drug. It’s very useful if you’re not dependent on it because then it’s more powerful and more effective and you don’t have any withdrawal.” he said.     6/10/13

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