16 April 2009

Vocabulary In the News: Beware the perils of caffeine withdrawal

To visit the CNN page,go to: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/04/06/hm.caffeine.withdrawal/index.html

This post contains some really good vocabulary for addictions

By Judy Fortin
CNN Medical Correspondent


ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Susan Todd loves her daily coffee fix. "I can drink four or five cups, easily, comfortably," said Todd, 59, of Clinton Township, Michigan.

But if she skips her regular dose of caffeine, Todd warned, watch out.

"I feel lousy all over. It's not that anything hurts," she explained. "I just feel sluggish, and a cup of caffeine will cure that."

Todd is among the estimated 80 to 90 percent of North American adults and children who consume caffeine products every day. Experts estimate about half that number will experience headaches and other symptoms from caffeine withdrawal syndrome.

There are a number of reasons why someone might need to reduce or stop their daily caffeine intake. Experts tell pregnant women not to consume more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day (about one 12-ounce cup of coffee). Caffeinated products are not recommended for people who are prone to panic attacks or those who suffer from anxiety. Some surgical patients may also experience the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal syndrome on the day of surgery, because they are told not to eat or drink anything.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, recognized the condition as a disorder five years ago after reviewing decades of studies. They concluded the higher the caffeine intake, the more likely a patient was to suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms when denied the ingredient.

Researchers also reported that some caffeine users considered themselves addicted to caffeine because they were unable to quit or cut down on their usage.

Michael Kuhar, chief of the division of neuroscience at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, prefers to use the word "dependent" rather than "addicted." Even though he called caffeine a drug, Kuhar wouldn't go so far as saying it has reached the status of cocaine or heroin.

According to Kuhar, caffeine is a mild stimulant. "If you take a cup of caffeine you're likely to feel good and energized," he said.

Miss that cup of "Joe" or can of cola and don't be surprised if you start feeling funny, Kuhar warned. He said some people complain of "headache, fatigue, sleepiness, inability to focus and concentrate." Others report experiencing flu- like symptoms, irritability, depression and anxiety after skipping as little as one cup of coffee a day.

Kuhar explained that caffeine blocks receptors in the brain that can dilate blood vessels causing headaches. "Withdrawal symptoms can start from 12 to 20 hours after your last cup of coffee and peak about two days later and can last about as long as a week," Kuhar added.

It is not just coffee that can lead to caffeine withdrawal. While a 6-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, tea and cola have about 40 milligrams each, a bar of milk chocolate has about 10 milligrams and hot chocolate has about 7 milligrams.

Kuhar said that means adults as well as children may be suffering daily physiological and personality effects of caffeine withdrawal.

He recommended that people who are motivated to give up caffeine, or cut back on consumption, do so very carefully. "The thing to do is what we do with so many drugs -- basically you wean yourself off slowly," Kuhar suggested. "That doesn't mean it is going to be easy at every step, but it should be easier than going cold turkey."

Johns Hopkins researchers also endorsed a stepped approach to quitting caffeine. They instruct patients to gradually substitute decaffeinated products or noncaffeinated products over time in order to reduce the likelihood of experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Kuhar suggested the process also can begin with reducing caffeine consumption by a half to a whole cup a day.

Technology consultant Skeet Spillane, 42, of St. Petersburg, Florida, started a step-down program after years of consuming up to three cups of coffee each day. He felt he was "drinking way too much caffeine."

Spillane said he knew right away that he was suffering from caffeine withdrawal when he started getting severe headaches. His wife told him he was cranky most of the time.

He now drinks tea instead, and occasionally sneaks a cup of coffee. Looking back, Spillane admitted going through withdrawal was "tough for a while," but he's feeling better these days and he's glad he's not so dependent on caffeine.

brewed adjective
made by boiling, steeping or mixing various ingredients
I love freshly brewed tea.
cold turkey idiomatic expression
sudden stop to taking a drug or other chemical substance
After years of smoking, she stopped cold turkey.
cranky adjective [mainly American]
someone who gets cranky gets annoyed easily
Travelling can make you cranky, tired and tense.
cup of Joe / cup o’ Joe/ cuppa Joe colloquial expression [American English- countable]
cup of coffee
Wanna go to Starbucks for a cup o’ Joe?
cure verb [transitive]
to control or get rid of a bad habit, feeling or attitude
Nothing seemed to cure him of his nervousness.
cut down or cut back  verbal phrase [intransitive/transitive]
to start doing less of something, especially because it is bad for your health
The doctor advised him to cut down his working hours.
I’m trying to cut down on salt.
disorder noun [countable]
an illness or medical condition
He had treated her for a stomach disorder.
endorse verb [transitive]
to express support for someone or something, especially in public
All endorsed the treaty as critically important for achieving peace.
fix noun [singular]
an amount of a drug that someone feels they need to take regularly
Let’s take a break, I need my coffee fix.
intake noun [singular]
the amount of something you eat or drink; the amount of substance or chemical that enters your body
Reduce your intake of salt, sugar and junk foods.
a good intake of vitamins
likelihood noun [singular/uncountable]
the chance that something might happen
The likelihood of developing cancer is increased in people who smoke.
lousy adjective 
bad or unpleasant
I’m a lousy singer.
lousy weather
peak verb [intransitive]
to reach the highest amount or level, before becoming lower
Interest rates peaked at 19%.
prone to adjective
likely to do something or be affected by something, especially something bad
The coastal region is prone to earthquakes.
He’s prone to gain weight.
skip verb [transitive] 
to avoid doing or having something
It’s not a good idea to skip breakfast.
She’s been skipping lessons all year.
sluggish adjective
not performing or reacting as well as unusual
Sasha woke up this morning feeling tired and sluggish.
a sluggish economy
sneak verb [transitive]
to take someone or something secretly or illegally
I sneaked the book out of my father’s study.
She managed to sneak him another piece of cake.
Let’s sneak some pizza into the cinema
wean someone off or wean someone from phrasal verb [transitive]
to make someone gradually stop depending on something that they like and have become used to, especially a drug or bad habit
We’re trying to wean ourselves off watching too much television.
withdrawal noun [uncountable]
a period when someone feels ill because they have stopped taking a drug or other substance that they are addicted to

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