What's Brewing Caffeine withdrawal syndrome -- that short-lived collection of miserable symptoms caused by skipping too many doses of joe or cola -- may soon become a bona fide mental disorder, thanks to research in the journal Psychopharmacology.
The Grounds Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Laura Juliano of American University reviewed 66 studies to determine whether caffeine withdrawal symptoms met criteria for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association's bible of mental disorders. They found that 10 symptoms -- "headache, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability and [feeling] foggy/not clearheaded" -- clearly fit the bill.
The Perk Adding caffeine withdrawal to the official list of disorders would help mental health professionals recognize its symptoms, Griffiths said. The DSM already recognizes nicotine and cocaine withdrawal syndromes, plus caffeine-related disorder, caffeine-induced anxiety disorder and caffeine intoxication.
Full of Beans? "There's no good reason" to put caffeine withdrawal syndrome in the DSM, said Paula Caplan, author of "They Say You're Crazy: How the World's Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who's Normal" (Addison Wesley, 1996). "If you stop drinking coffee, you get irritable, get a headache. That doesn't mean you're mentally ill," she said. "Anytime anybody ever suggests a new category should go into this three-pound DSM, we should ask if there's a drug company connection."
The Scoop Griffiths, who indeed has consulted for pharmaceutical firms, said he's not trying to create demand for drug treatments. After all, he said, "the best treatment for caffeine withdrawal is caffeine."
-- Jennifer Huget