Mind Over Meal: How Cutting Down on Caffeine Can Help You Quit Smoking

Contributor
There’s a trick that everyone who’s trying to quit smoking should know about
Coffee and cigarettes

Photo Modified: Flickr/ Erwan Deverre/ CCBY-SA4.0

Coffee and cigarettes usually go hand in hand.

The close of the holiday season means setting sights on New Year’s resolutions, and for many of the people I work with, that translates to finally quitting cigarettes. And why not? The winter weather is less inviting, and everyone’s wallet is a little tighter after Santa comes to town — perfect seasonal incentives to quit smoking.  What many people don’t factor in is how difficult quitting can be when they associate smoking with a morning routine, like that first cup of coffee. What they rarely realize is that entirely cutting out coffee and other caffeinated beverages can make it even harder to quit smoking.

The reason behind this is that smokers and non-smokers actually process caffeine differently. Smokers break down caffeine quickly, meaning that it takes more coffee to get the same buzz. But when someone quits smoking the nicotine levels in their system drop, which slows down their metabolism and makes one cup of coffee feel much, much stronger.  For many people, this creates an overdose of caffeine, which results in the same anxiety, restlessness, frustration, insomnia, and difficulties concentrating that many people associate with nicotine withdrawal.  In response to this common problem, I’ve seen many people who decide to cut out coffee and caffeine entirely. But you know what else causes anxiety, frustration, and insomnia that makes it even harder to quit? Caffeine withdrawal. 

All of this is enough to drive a person back to smoking. But there’s a solution: People who cut their caffeine intake in half  (instead of quitting cold turkey) when they quit smoking have far less intense withdrawal symptoms, and are more likely to successfully quit smoking. That’s a key step I always try to take with my clients to make sure their New Year’s resolutions don’t go up in smoke.  

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