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Caffeine and Headache

Here are some of the most important facts about caffeine and its relationship to headache.

General

  • Most people feel the effects of caffeine within 30 minutes.
  • Generally, the effects of caffeine last 3 to 5 hours.
  • The average American consumes about 227 mg of caffeine daily, or the equivalent of about 2-3 cups of coffee.
  • People who get headaches should clearly understand how caffeine affects their headaches.

Caffeine in headache medications

  • Adding 130 mg of caffeine to a regular, two-tablet dose of common ingredients found pain relievers (aspirin and acetaminophen) makes them relieve tension-type headache pain about 40% better than they do without caffeine. Caffeine also helps your body absorb these medications, allowing you to get back to your daily life faster.
  • Because analgesics work better when they have caffeine added, you may be able to take less medicine when you have a headache. And because even non-prescription medications are real medicine with the potential for side effects, taking less reduces the risks associated with inappropriate use.

Caffeine and medication overuse headache

  • Medication overuse headache is a serious problem that develops from taking headache medications too often, even at the recommended dose. Medication overuse headache is constant-it won't go away until you completely stop taking the drugs that are causing the problem.
  • Any headache medicine can cause medication overuse headache-taking caffeine-containing headache medications doesn't appear to increase the risk.
  • Medication overuse headache is rare; in fact, only 1% of the general population is reported to have it.

Addiction or dependence

  • According to the American Psychiatric Association, caffeine is not addictive, and it does not resemble addictive or habit-forming drugs that lead to severe physical and social consequences.
  • Significant caffeine abuse has not been reported by any culture in the world.
  • When used according to label directions, headache medicines with caffeine pose no risk of addiction or dependence.

Caffeine withdrawal headache

  • Technically, a person needs to use more than 200 mg of caffeine every day for at least two weeks before they can be diagnosed with a caffeine withdrawal headache.

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