Caffeine intoxication, withdrawal, now both official mental conditions

Call us crazy…

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

We saw this as the week rolled to a close:

Caffeine, that most-benign seeming drug of choice that keeps so many of us fueled through the day, is now the basis of two official diagnoses in the mental-health bible released in May, with a third brewing for consideration. The latest version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly referred to as DSM-5, includes both caffeine intoxication and withdrawal. These conditions are considered mental disorders when they impair a person’s ability to function in daily life.

I obviously can report that these conditions never impair our abilities to function. That may be because we are careful never to hit withdrawal stages.

Beyond this news — caffeine intoxication already had been an official disorder, with withdrawal in the last version still up for more “research.” That research bumped up its status this time around, which is noteworthy because “caffeine use disorder” — essentially when someone has side effects from caffeine but can’t quit — is now undergoing more research, so it could end up an official disorder in the future.

Here are some smarty-pants as quoted in the Wall St. Journal article:

“Caffeine intoxication and withdrawal both occur fairly frequently but only rarely cause enough clinically significant impairment to be considered a mental disorder,” said Allen Frances, who chaired the task force that developed the previous version of the DSM and has been a vocal critic of the latest version. “We shouldn’t medicalize every aspect of life and turn everyone into a patient,” he added.

Alan Budney, a member of the DSM-5 Substance-Related Disorders Work Group, said the research in support of caffeine withdrawal as a diagnosis is substantial. It is a “clinically meaningful” diagnosis that could be useful to psychiatrists and other health-care workers seeing someone experiencing such symptoms, said Dr. Budney, a psychiatry professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.

“The symptoms [of caffeine withdrawal] overlap with a lot of other disorders and medical problems,” said Laura Juliano, a psychology professor at American University who advised the DSM-5 work group. “We’ve heard many times people went to the doctor for chronic headaches or because they thought that they had the flu and it turns out it was caffeine withdrawal and they didn’t even know it.”

The story also notes that while caffeine is addictive, it has shown all those benefits we keep passing along to you. It also gives you all the details on what just defines intoxication and withdrawal:

To be diagnosed with caffeine withdrawal, a patient must experience at least three of five symptoms within 24 hours of stopping or reducing caffeine intake: headache, fatigue or drowsiness, depressed mood or irritability, difficulty concentrating, and flulike symptoms such as nausea or muscle pain.


Caffeine intoxication is defined as having five of a dozen symptoms. Among these are restlessness, flushed face, nervousness, insomnia, muscle twitching, irregular heartbeat and rambling flow of thought and speech. Again, these symptoms must make it extremely hard to function at work or home. Intoxication can occur at levels in excess of 250 milligrams of caffeine, according to the DSM. But experts say most cases of intoxication result from much higher doses.

And, yes, those two paragraphs basically describe situation normal with us.

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

One thought on “Caffeine intoxication, withdrawal, now both official mental conditions”

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