Fact: Caffeine (withdrawal) can cause headaches
Fact: Caffeine is used in medicine to relieve headaches
Question: How can two seemingly opposite statements be true?
Answer: The dosage, or amount, of caffeine used/consumed, may be the reason that both “facts” can be true (although this is debatable among experts).
Caffeine is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter (OTC) headache medications. The reason? Caffeine additives make pain relievers 40% more effective in treating headaches, and helps the body absorb the medication more quickly.
How much caffeine is added to these pain relievers? There is up to 65 milligrams (mg) of caffeine in one dose of the most commonly-used pain-relieving OTC medicines. This compares to one (8 oz) cup of regular coffee, which contains 100-120 mg of caffeine. However, who drinks just 8 oz. of coffee?! A popular coffee shop’s smallest coffee is 12 oz, with 260 milligrams of caffeine. My coffee mug at home hold about 12 oz.
Most sources said that "withdrawal from normal caffeine usage is rare". However, with excess use, over 500 mg daily (approximately 5 cups of coffee) over a long period of time, sudden cessation could cause symptoms of withdrawal.
However, this poses a question that if “5 (8 oz.) cups of coffee” equals 500 mg, then some of the espresso-drinks contain double the caffeine, and depending on the size of drink you order, you may be consuming the “excess use of caffeine” with just “2 (12-16 oz.) cups of coffee”.
Wording is key here. The collective "we" use the word "cup" to generally describe the physical container or "one drink" regardless of size, instead of as a measurement as intended.
Interestingly, the October 2004 issue of the journal Psychopharmacology researchers found caffeine withdrawal to occur frequently (contrary to most other sources that say caffeine withdrawal happens infrequently), and state that this condition is severe and valid enough to be considered its own disorder (similar to other types of drug withdrawal).
The researchers identified five clusters of common withdrawal symptoms: headache; fatigue or drowsiness; dysphoric mood including depression and irritability; difficulty concentrating; and flu-like symptoms of nausea, vomiting and muscle pain or stiffness.
Have you experienced any/all of these common caffeine withdrawal symptoms? Have you ever considered cutting back on your consumption of caffeine?
The National Sleep Foundation has many webpages dedicated to caffeine withdrawal, treatment and “quizzes” to assess your consumption.
So, just to recap:
Fact: Coffee and soda beverages contain between (average of) 100-200 mg. of caffeine per serving, usually 8 oz regular coffee or 12 oz soda.
Fact: Most common OTC pain relieving medication contains abut 65 mg. of caffeine per dose.
Answer: Caffeine withdrawal likely occurs with excess use of caffeine on a regular basis, defined as 500 mg. or more daily.
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