I’ve dosed myself with caffeine every morning since I was 8. If I don’t have a dose within ~1 hour of waking up, I get a headache that will not leave until the next morning. The caffeine was originally a medication for migrations that had no clear source. Now it isn’t clear if I still get those same idiopathic headaches but caffeine treats them, or if I have just swapped whatever that problem was for a caffeine addiction that gives me headaches during withdrawal. I’ve attempted to kick the habit a few times in the past, but these always ended poorly. So, I decided to try again but with academic rigor so as to decide for good whether my headaches are withdrawal-induced or caffeine-treated.
Hypothesis: My headaches are caused by withdrawal from caffeine, a substance that I am addicted to.
Alternative Hypothesis: My headaches are due to some biological cause, and caffeine treats this undefined problem.
Experimental Approach: Attempt to slowly wean myself off of caffeine. If I can do this successfully and remain headache-free for an extended period of time, I will take this as evidence for a caffeine addiction. If I cannot, I will take this as evidence for a biological problem.
Today’s post explains exactly how I plan to do this, in academically painful detail (below the fold).
I’ve been drinking this instant Vietnamese coffee for a long time now, because it gives me a pretty precise daily caffeine dose and has kept me more headache-free than has normal coffee. I attribute this to high variability in brewed coffee, since the amount of grounds used, water temperature, and brew time vary day-to-day and likely have large effects on final caffeine concentration. So the plan is to use this instant coffee, starting on Day 1 with the amount that I am currently using, followed by 1 gram/day reductions. This will be slow process, allowing me to adjust to the reduced caffeine intake. If during this process I hit quantities that fail to prevent headaches, I will stay on that dose until the headaches stop. If I hit a dose that causes daily headaches for at least 5 days, I will conclude that this is a biological problem.
My current dose is 2 packets per day (Fig. 1A), which should be 40g including the packaging. To more precisely determine the daily amount, I emptied 29 packets (14.5 daily doses) into 3 sandwhich bags and weighed each (Fig. 1). The results are summarized in Table 1, and were remarkably close to the expected value (39.9g actual versus 40g expected).
Tomorrow marks Day 0 of The Weaning, which I will begin by measuring out 40g into a tared coffee mug using the scale shown in Fig. 1. I will decrease my daily intake linearly, 1g/day, for the days following as described above, and will follow up this post with the results or with problems that I run into.