Most people who use caffeine regularly, even by consuming one caffeine-laced soda or a cup of coffee a day, form a mild caffeine addiction. Some doctors call this addiction serious, while others feel that withdrawals from caffeine addiction are not nearly as severe as from other forms of addiction. The question as to whether caffeine is a dangerous addiction is a highly contended point.
One of the standard tests of defining addiction is that people are unable to stop, even if the addiction causes them self-harm, or causes irreparable harm to their families or lives. Few people who use caffeine in small amounts harm their families. Further, most people who must stop using caffeine for medical reasons do stop, though they may experience some physical comforts.
People who have caffeine addiction usually consume about 100 mg of caffeine a day, which is equivalent to about half a cup of coffee. So people who drink a cup of coffee a day would be considered addicted.
Caffeine addiction is further defined by withdrawal experiences. Withdrawal symptoms from caffeine addiction may occur between 12-24 hours after one’s last dose of caffeine. Common symptoms are headache, fatigue, exhaustion, moodiness, flu-like symptoms like muscle aches, and difficulty concentrating. Most people who stop using caffeine cite headache and feeling tired as main symptoms.
According to Roland Griffiths, who advocates that caffeine addiction be taken more seriously by the medical and psychiatric fields, about 13% of people who withdraw from caffeine addiction also experience symptoms severe enough to temporarily affect ability to work. Some people feel sick, tired, or confused and may take a few days off work thinking they have the flu.
Most caffeine addiction symptoms end within a few days after the last intake of caffeine. Some people may continue to experience symptoms for up to nine days after their last intake. Many go back to caffeine to stop the symptoms, suggesting they are using caffeine not for enjoyment, but as a way to refrain from having withdrawal symptoms.
Questions remain about the degree of harm caused by caffeine intake in general, and whether caffeine addiction is serious. Certainly some people have health conditions that may be exacerbated by caffeine. Caffeine can increase breast tenderness during PMS, and it may be linked to other health conditions.
There are also some health benefits to using caffeine. It can, for example, help the heart rate accelerate more quickly during an aerobic workout, which may promote greater weight loss. Taken in small amounts it may mildly suppress the appetite. Therefore, some in the medical field call research on caffeine addiction overblown. However, research does establish that many people are addicted to caffeine, and that quitting may be at minimum, uncomfortable.