Last Updated on November 21, 2020 by Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley
We’ve all heard people say, “I’m a coffee addict.” You may have even made the statement yourself. But, for that to be true, we need to first answer the question Is caffeine a drug?
What is Caffeine and Where Does it Come From?
Caffeine is a naturally produced stimulant that comes from the cacao plant. Contrary to popular belief, it is often used in teas as well as coffees.
Caffeine is notorious for keeping people awake – which is why it’s so popular as a morning beverage. However, the downside of this is that it can keep you awake at night.
The main effects of caffeine occur in the brain. Caffeine blocks the function of the neurotransmitter, adenosine, which relaxes your brain and makes you feel tired. Caffeine also increases adrenaline levels in the brain and increases the activity of two other neurotransmitters: dopamine and norepinephrine.
The combination of all this activity is why caffeine is known as a psychoactive drug.
How Long Does It Take Caffeine to Kick In?
That first cup of coffee in the morning is always the one that tastes the best isn’t it?
In most people, the caffeine begins to work its magic after the very first sip. It travels to the liver and breaks down into the chemicals paraxanthine, theophylline, and theobromine. Once the chemicals have been created in the liver, they travel off to specific areas of the body.
The speed that caffeine metabolizes in your body is largely a matter of genes. This is why some people are able to drink coffee or energy drinks all day and have no problem getting to sleep at night and other people are still wide awake at 4am after one cup of coffee.
The Role of Adenosine Receptors
Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that builds up during the day as you go about your normal activities. Once enough adenosine has bound itself to receptors in the brain, your body understands that its time to go to bed and go to sleep.
If you’re using caffeine in an attempt to stay awake you will probably succeed. However, the caffeine doesn’t make you any less tired, it just covers up the adenosine’s natural signsof tiredness.
This process also increases the amount of dopamine that’s created in your brain and your adrenaline levels. It’s not surprising that caffeine keeps you awake.
How Long Does Caffeine Stay in Your System?
The half-life of caffeine is around 4 to 6 hours for most people. This means that after a cup of coffee, half of the caffeine has been eliminated from your body at around 5 hours.
If you drink a lot of energy drinks, you’ll notice that you begin to crave another one around the 5-hour mark.
What is a Caffeine Headache?
Caffeine headaches occur when the body goes without the caffeine that it is normally used to having. Skipping just one cup of coffee in the morning can cause a caffeine headache if your body is used to that one cup of coffee every day.
Caffeine is known to reduce the width of the blood vessels around your brain. When the brain lacks caffeine, these blood vessels expand, and you head begins to hurt.
What’s the Best Way to Go About Quitting Caffeine?
If you decide you want to stop using caffeine, it might be a bit trickier than you imagine.
Caffeine is in many different products, some of which you may not even be aware of, such as:
- Coffee, tea,energy drinks
- Protein bars
- Soft drinksand sodas
- Candy bars
- Ice creamand frozen yoghurt
- Breakfast cereals
- PMS medication
- Headache medication
It may seem surprising that caffeine is in some headache medications, but it has been proven to help eliminate headaches, depending on the original cause of the pain.
However, some headaches can actually be causedby caffeine – so you have to know your body and how it responds well before you decide which direction you should go and if you should utilize it or eliminate it.
How Long Does Caffeine Stay in Your Body if You Decide to Quit?
As we’ve already mentioned, withdrawal symptoms from caffeine can happen even if you only drink one cup of coffee a day. You may also be taking more caffeine than you realize due to how many other products the substance can be found in.
Try to wean yourself off caffeine slowly one product at a time.
For example, if you drink four cups of coffee a day try exchanging two of those cups for decaffeinated coffee. Keep in mind that “decaffeinated coffee” usually still contains a small amount of caffeine.