Many focus on the headache withdrawal symptom because, paradoxically, caffeine is often used to treat headaches. The drug is found in many over-the-counter medicines such as Anacin and Excedrin, which are used to reduce the pain associated with headaches. Still, headaches can be an outcome of caffeine use. The reason for this is caffeine constricts blood vessels and this slows blood flow to the brain. One cause for headaches, according to Dr. Garavaglia of District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office in Florida, is heavy blood flow to the brain. Caffeine works to block a chemical called adenosine, which when left unaffected, binds to adenosine receptors and decelerates nerve cell activity, causing drowsiness, and dilates blood vessels in the brain. Caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors, accelerating cellular activity and constricting the blood vessels in the brain.
Therefore, caffeine alters the physiological mechanics that can cause headaches. Those who habitually take in large amounts of caffeine, 500mg or more per day for at least a month, will unknowingly become accustomed to caffeine’s anti-adenosine properties. A break in a user’s caffeine cycle will stop the physiological activity, allowing adenosine to function and blood flow to increase. Hence, any habitual user of large amounts of caffeine might experience a pounding headache due to the increased blood flow after abstinence. According to Dr. Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Laura Juliano, withdrawal symptoms typically begin after 12-24 hours of abstinence, the peak occurring after 1-2 days, and the duration 2 days to a week.
The typical cup of coffee has about 100-200 mg of caffeine. Soda averages at 40-50mg. 40-120 mg can be found in various teas. Energy drinks can offer up to 280 mg, but typically contain 70-150 mg. Any caffeine lover who can have no less than 500 mg of caffeine a day is at risk for withdrawal headaches. A slow reduction of caffeine rather than abrupt elimination is necessary for anyone who wants to avoid discomfort.