Straight Talk Advice

Jul 14, 2010

Caffeine overdose blues

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’m 16. Does anyone have advice for how to get off caffeine? Every day I need a coffee or energy drink fix, usually more than once. I feel so sluggish without them. It’s summer and I’d like to clean up my act. Help! — Santa Rosa, Calif.

Molly 18, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

My experience is to just quit completely. You might feel sluggish for a few days and even endure headaches, but afterward you’ll feel great. In my opinion this is the only way to quit.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

Eat fruit. It’s a natural energy booster. Resist the temptation to buy “just one” drink. Instead, chew gum.

Scot 23, San Luis Obispo, Calif. Ask me a question

Sugar, caffeine, high-fructose corn syrup. They’re everywhere. It’s easy to consume empty calories from caffeine drinks and never feel hungry. Make sure you are eating healthy; it will help with the energy problem. When you first quit you will crash in the afternoons. But it’s summer so you can afford this for a couple weeks.

Hannah 16, Safford, Ariz. Ask me a question

Downsize. If you drink two Monsters per day, cut it to one. Also, nutritious foods will give you the energy you get from caffeine. Exercise is a great stamina-builder too. Stick to it. Change takes time and effort.

Lennon 23, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

Just stop buying them. If coffee isn’t in my face, I don’t miss it. But if I wake up to it, forget it. If your parents brew coffee at home, request that they adjust their routine or encourage them to quit with you. Or try switching to hot chocolate which has less caffeine.

Gregg 19, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

I can relate. I love feeling energized all day too. I still drink coffee occasionally, but when I’m tired, I try to understand why. If it’s from lack of sleep, I promise myself to go to bed early regardless of what my friends are doing. Most often, my sluggishness is from lack of exercise. If I exercise, go to bed early, and still feel slow, I fake it to make it. Believe in it.

Rachel 18, Petaluma, Calif. Ask me a question

I had an unhappy year where I would constantly stuff my face with chocolate. If I didn’t have it, I would get mean and have killer headaches. When I finally saw myself, I was disgusted and immediately tried cutting it out of my life. The only thing that worked was eliminating all forms of sugar until my body detoxed. The first week was the hardest. Remember, you have an addiction, so it’s not easy.

Akasha 16, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

I drink coffee rarely, so I feel just as awake the mornings I have coffee as the mornings I don’t. This will happen to you too. I knew a smoker who pretended she lived on an island where there were simply no cigarettes. This made quitting easier because she had “no choice” since there were “no cigarettes.” Use your imagination to do the same thing with caffeine.

DEAR SANTA ROSA: The in-your-face high-profit peddling of coffee and energy drinks (which are mainly caffeine mixed with vitamins, herbs and sugar) is only about 15 years old. (I know, your whole life!) It drinks me batty because today’s mega-doses of caffeine are a top stressor for growing bodies. The panel shares great options for kicking the addiction: cold-turkey, tapering off, chewing gum, positive fantasy (ain’t no joe on this island) — while rightly acknowledging that you will need healthy habits (proper diet, adequate sleep, exercise) to keep your vitality high for the long haul. All the ideas can work. Pick the quitting style that matches your personality and follow through. It’s essential for your health — and financial freedom: in 2007, the average Starbucks customer spent $4.05 per visit on coffee.

Editor’s Web Note: Lest you wonder why every small town breeds Starbucks like rabbits, consider a Wall Street Journal study that found a cup of joe at Starbucks has 56% more caffeine than coffee sold in gas marts and pastry shops. The study showed it was the need to stave off withdrawals that brought people back — not taste. Caffeine withdrawals begin 12 to 24 hours after the last sip. If not re-tanked to the same height, you pay with headaches, irritability, drowsiness and difficulty concentrating. America loves the free market and, obviously, kids aren’t forced to drink Red Bull or Starbucks. But as one teen lamented, “The companies that seduce us with addictive products are run by parents. Don’t they care how we turn out?” Answer: Not more than they care about making money. Parents: it really does help to constantly discourage your teen from drinking caffeinated products and constantly remind them how bad these products are for their health. —Lauren

  1. By Marci, age , from Novato, CA on 07/14/2010

    I’m going to ask my sister to read this and hope she will heed the advice but I doubt that she will.  She’s definitely addicted to caffeine, but just laughs at me when I try to tell her that and says that caffeine isn’t something you can be addicted to.  However, she drinks coffee and caffeinated energy drinks all day and into the evening and can’t go without them.  Because of this, she can’t get to sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning.  It’s not just her problem because we share a room and when she can’t sleep she also does things that keep me awake and it drives me crazy.  At least Santa Rosa knows he has a problem and wants to quit, so there’s hope for him.  But my sister’s like an alcoholic who is in denial and doesn’t want to stop drinking. 


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