Friday, October 22, 2010

Say Goodbye To My Little Friend

Caffeine. We've had a love-hate relationship for 30 plus years. I remember glasses of chocolate milk when I was little. Getting a soda out of the vending machine while going for walks with friends as a tween. The perpetual pitcher of sweet tea in the refrigerator as I got older (and fatter.) That sweet cup of coffee as an adult. Celebrating doing a great job on an exam with a trip to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice or mocha latte.

I learned that you were evil at an early age, yet I developed a dependence on you. I pushed you away, only to regret it with that dreaded caffeine headache. I remember being 17, having an awful headache and the first thing my mom would do was pour me a glass of Coca-cola. It always relieved the headache within half an hour and I felt so much better. My mom is also addicted to caffeine. I can't tell you how many times I've heard her say, "Don't talk to me, I haven't had my coffee yet."

My surgeon said that I will need to give up caffeine for my surgery. I am definitely willing to do this, my only hesitation is because of the headaches. I've tried to stop caffeine before, and failed many times. The caffeine dependence is negatively reinforced by the headaches and it creates a cycle. I stop the caffeine, I get a headache. I drink some caffeine, the headache goes away. We're not talking a mild headache either. This is one that you can't stand sounds, light, etc. It's very very similar to a migraine. The only difference is the location on the head.

We just finished studying substance abuse in my Abnormal Psychology class, and I was actually shocked that I fit the diagnosis of substance dependence. I never really thought of caffeine to be a drug, but it's true. I'm dependent on it and am low functioning without it. If you are wondering if you are caffeine dependent, consider this:

Substance dependence is a maladaptive pattern of substance use with clinically significant impairment or distress as manifested by at least three of the following:

  1. Tolerance
  2. Withdrawal
  3. Consuming larger amounts for longer periods of time than intended
  4. Desire with unsuccessful efforts to limit intake
  5. Large amounts of time spent in obtaining, using or recovering from substance
  6. Social, occupational and recreational activities are reduced due to use.
  7. Use is continued despite physiological and/or psychological problems caused.
Scary isn't it? Quite a wakeup call. Personally, I experience tolerance, withdrawal, failure at limiting intake and use despite physiological problems caused. Before I really started the ball rolling towards weight loss surgery, I was consuming a lot of caffeine. I would have up to 3 cups of coffee and 4 or 5 glasses of tea or soda. For anyone counting, that's an average of 500mg of caffeine a day. In the past two days, I have had one cup of coffee and one can of Dr. Pepper. That brings my consumption down to 157mg. Huge difference! And, I have noticed a difference. I have a mild, continuous headache. It's just there, not bothering me much, but it's not going away either. I'm hoping to slowly wean myself off, I'm not quite sure that I can go cold turkey, at least not with a major caffeine headache. If I can get my body used to the 150mg of caffeine, I'll take it down to one can of soda, which is about 40-42mg. Then, I'll be able to deal with a mild headache for three days. At least that's my plan. I hope it works!

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