What Causes Tea or Coffee Addiction?
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Are You Addicted to Tea/Coffee? - Caffeine Addiction and Its Implications

Published on Jan 25, 2017 and last reviewed on Aug 03, 2023   -  4 min read


Everybody knows that coffee and tea contain caffeine. Increased consumption beyond the safety limit can cause caffeine addiction. Read the article to know more.

Are You Addicted to Tea/Coffee? - Caffeine Addiction and Its Implications


Use of caffeine-rich food dates back to at least 350 A.D, when the cultivation of tea started in China. Not only tea but the consumption of coffee also dates back to about the middle of the 17th century. Since then there has been no looking back and consumption of both tea and coffee has increased by leaps and bounds. The importance of tea and coffee can be gauged by the fact many people cannot even think of starting mornings without a cup of tea or coffee.

What Causes Tea or Coffee Addiction?

Different types of tea contain various amounts of caffeine. It is a natural stimulant and has potentially addictive properties. Caffeine has a chemical structure similar to that of adenosine, which is found in the body, that helps to relax the central nervous system. Due to the similarity in the structure, the caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors in the brain and blocks the adenosine from binding. Thus the lack of adenosine bindings tells the body is tired. This in turn can largely release other natural stimulants like dopamine. The release of other stimulants suppresses tiredness and makes a person alert. In people regularly taking caffeine-containing beverages, the brain cells make more adenosine receptors to compensate for the ones blocked by the caffeine. The effect is that an individual needs more caffeine to experience to have the same effect from caffeine. This results in addiction and needs a regular dose of caffeine. Sudden stoppage of caffeine will be difficult and cause withdrawal symptoms.

Is the Caffeine Addiction True?

Addictions come differently for different people and have several clinical symptoms. The most commonly seen symptoms include -

  • Continued use of caffeine-containing beverages.

  • A persistent desire to have the beverage even missed or cut down the level of caffeine.

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not having the caffeinated drink.

  • Regular intake can cause addiction-like symptoms.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Caffeine Dependency?

1. Headache.

2. Lack of concentration.

3. Drowsiness.

4. Fatigue.

5. Irritability.

6. Anxiety.

7. Depressed mood.

  • The withdrawal symptoms appear within 12 to 24 hours after cutting tea or coffee. The symptoms may subside once having tea or coffee. In some people, the symptoms can persist for many days.

  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggested the consumption of caffeine no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day. This is approximately 4.5- to 12 cups of tea per day, depending on the variety.

  • Pregnant women should limit their daily caffeine intake to not more than 200 mg. Intake of tea below these safe levels is considered safe.

  • Some people, very sensitive to caffeine, can experience unpleasant experiences, even at the lower dose.

  • The side effects include insomnia, heart palpitations, irritability, muscle twitches, and migraines.

  • People suffering from anxiety, seizures, heart, kidney, or liver diseases are advised to limit the intake of caffeine, as it worsens the disease symptoms.

How Does Caffeine Addiction Affect Health?

Addiction to Caffeine Can Cause Various Disorders:

1. Caffeine-Induced Anxiety Disorder: Caffeine can cause anxiety symptoms including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, etc. The symptoms of such illnesses occur during or within one month of substance intoxication or withdrawal.

2. Caffeine-Induced Sleep Disorder: Caffeine might cause insomnia or lack of sleep. The closer caffeine is taken to bedtime, the more likely it is to produce disruptive effects on sleep. It has been shown in clinical trials that taking two cups of brewed coffee before bedtime delays sleep onset and total sleep time.

3. Caffeine Withdrawal: Caffeine might cause withdrawal when the intake is decreased or abruptly stopped. Symptoms include marked fatigue or depression, drowsiness, anxiety, depression, nausea, or vomiting. Other symptoms include headache, tiredness, decreased energy, decreased attentiveness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muzzy, foggy head, and flu-like symptoms. Caffeine withdrawal headache is the most common feature associated with caffeine.

How to Stop Problematic Caffeine Use?

Some self-help tips to decrease or completely stop problematic caffeine use are:

1. Knowing Which Products Have Caffeine: Not only tea/coffee but even products like soft drinks, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, and chocolates also have a large amount of caffeine

2.Self-monitoring of Daily Use of Caffeine Intake: It is very important to know the actual caffeine intake daily so that a realistic goal may be set up.

3. Setting a Goal: Unlike other substances, complete abstinence is not always the goal. But caffeine intake should be restricted to less than 50 mg/day in those who have been earlier diagnosed with caffeine dependence.

4. Write a Clear Plan and Do It Accordingly: Everybody should try to chalk out their plan on how they wish to decrease their caffeine intake. A reasonably well-accepted plan is to reduce the amount by 25 % per week.

5. Reinforcement for Abstinence: Award for sticking to a goal plan. It could be anything like going out with friends (of course not to a coffee shop!), getting a gift, etc. Positive reinforcement helps to a great extent.

6. Identifying Barriers of Change: Sometimes there may be some other obstacles that might prevent them from completely stopping. Identify those obstacles and tackle them one by one.

7. Getting Professional Help: Sometimes when self-help fails, it is always recommended to consult a Psychiatrist who could help to get rid of the problem.

What Are the Caffeine Free Alternatives?

Switching to caffeine-free alternatives is the best way to reduce the dependency on caffeine.

The alternatives are:

  • Ginger, turmeric, or fresh mint infusions.

  • Fresh lime juice in warm water.

  • Carrot or beetroot juice.

  • Golden milk latte.

  • Mulled apple juice.

  • Almond milk with cinnamon or nutmeg.

  • Caffeine-free herbal tea.


Tea and caffeine contain varied amounts of caffeine, where regular use can cause dependency-like symptoms. Intake of too much caffeine can cause many health issues and quality of life is also affected. When a person plans to reduce their dependency on caffeine they can opt for caffeine-free alternatives.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is Caffeine Addiction?

Caffeine, which is a white substance found in a lot of plants including coffee beans, cocoa beans, tea, etc., acts as a central nervous stimulant and helps us stay alert. Regular use results in mild physical dependence, which is called caffeine addiction.


What are the symptoms of caffeine addiction?

If the reduction in coffee consumption results in headaches, fatigue, depression, drowsiness, or irritability, then these are signs of caffeine addiction.


How To Break Caffeine Addiction?

It is best to slowly reduce the amount of caffeine you take. You should be aware of the presence of caffeine in all the beverages and tablet you consume. If you are addicted to coffee, then switch between decaf and regular coffee. Slowly increase the amount of decaf coffee, and finally, stop regular coffee. Stopping cold turkey might lead to severe withdrawal symptoms.


What are the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal?

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system making you alert and less tired. Even stopping one cup of coffee that you drink habitually every day might cause the following withdrawal symptoms:
Difficulty concentrating.
Feeling depressed.


How Long will it take To Break Caffeine Addiction?

If you quit drinking coffee, even a single cup in a day, withdrawal symptoms start within 12 to 24 hours. The peak occurs between 24 and 51 hours, and it can last almost a week.


What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Caffeine?

Regular and long-term consumption of caffeine, for example, 4 cups of coffee every day, might have the following effects:
Sleep problems.
Rapid heart rate.
Increased thirst.


What Does Caffeine Do To The Brain?

Before adenosine, which is a chemical found in the body that makes us sleepy and tired, can bind to the brain, caffeine which has a similar chemical structure binds to the adenosine receptors in the brain and keeps us awake.


Is Caffeine Bad For Your Heart?

Drinking 1 or 2 cups of coffee in a day does not seem to result in any heart problems. But, caffeine increases the adrenaline concentration in the body, which can result in increased heart rate. And due to its stimulatory action on the nervous system, it raises the blood pressure.


Does Caffeine Affect Mental Health?

Some studies have found that caffeine and stress together can result in psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, anxiety, panic attacks, and delusions.


How Does Caffeine Affect Anxiety?

If you already suffer from anxiety disorders or panic attacks, consuming too much caffeine can worsen your symptoms.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
03 Aug 2023  -  4 min read



Dr. Surabhi


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