Giving up caffeine is not to be taken lightly, but once you've managed it for about a month you can probably keep it up indefinitely.
First of all, why give it up? I mean, what's a mug of nice, hot tea going to do on a cold morning? It won't kill you!
True, it won't kill you, but too much caffeine builds up a tolerance, which without realising can become an addiction, which can then become an all consuming passion. Caffeine speeds up your heart rate, is a dieuretic, a laxative, a fairly heavy-duty stimulant and, incidentally, expensive. 250 mls of Red Bull costs about six times as much as an equivalent volume of Sprite.
To clear things up before I start the Patented Hugskull Program of Decaffeination, I must stress this is for serious addicts, not for people who drink maybe three lattes a day. I'm talking about people who can't get out of bed without being put on a caffeine drip.
I was finally galvanised into quitting after writing down my daily intake, and realising that I was planning to steal a kilogram jar of lab-grade caffeine from the lab. My intake list went as follows. (This part is a little G.T.K.Y., but it kind of puts into perspective the kind of addiction level that this little strategy can work up to. )
It'll probably work faster for people starting at lower dosages anyway.
6:30 am. Breakfast . 2 medium cups (1 pint) standard coffee
6.45 am. Leaving house. 6 tablets Pro Plus, crushed and snorted
7.50 am. In town centre. 3 double espresso and one latte (1 pint) for the walk
8.10 am. Arrival at college. 2 cups of vending machine coffee.
8.30-11.40. First lectures. Anything up to 2 litres of Blue Charge, and more Pro Plus
11.40-12.15. Dinner. Usually four more cups of vending machine coffee.
12.15-3.20. Afternoon lectures. A further litre or two of Blue Charge.
6.15. Arrive home. 2 or 3 cans of Red Bull to prepare for going out.
9.00 onwards. Out at nightclub. Up to fifteen bottles of Adrenaline.
4.20-ish. Return Home. Lather, rinse and repeat.
As you can see, it had to stop. I tried a few quitting methods first, but this one was the best, and is the one which a few friends hooked on the stealthy stimulant used as well.
Week one - Stop eating/drinking anything which is deliberately caffeinated. This means no more Red Bull, no recharge, or as it's now known, Adrenaline, no V, no Solstis, no Raptor, no Blue Charge, my own former poison of choice, no Lucozade Original, and no Pro Plus, caffeine gum or any other of the chewy, crunchy little monsters of confectionery which purport to get you high.
This should get you used to the idea of not automatically choosing your beverage on the basis of how high a caffeine content it has. Try to find things which taste like the things you're giving up to replace them - you can make a convincing Red Bull using 75 mls cheap strawberryade, 50 mls limeade, 20 mls lemonade and a few drops of undiluted orange cordial. But drink it out of a mug rather than a glass, as you'll never get the colour right. You'll start getting the withdrawal pains a little now, usually headaches, nausea, lack of concentration, drowsiness, in my case mild hallucinations, migranes, and one friend reported severely aching muscles. It's not friendly. You might find that you start drinking more of the permitted caffeinated things to compensate. Try not to.
Week two - Stop drinking tea and coffee. Give them up altogether until you've managed all of the steps. Even the decaf stuff, just to get you used to it. After all, the Red Bull substitute is something which you have to make for yourself, not something which you can "Forget" to order decaf at your local Starbucks. Try replacing them for now with hot chocolate.
Weeks three to seven - this phase might last up to a month, just because it's so difficult. Things which you never imagined were caffeinated actually are. Aside from the usual Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper, there's also Irn Bru, green tea, some alcopops, especially the blue ones, and a surprising number of other obscure drinks, including, sadly, some absolute gems.
Around this time you may want to find some other stimulant to wean you through total withdrawal. You'll have felt bad on the third day of week one, but you would have still had coffee and Pepsi to keep you going. At the start of week two you will have lost coffee, and drank inordinate amounts of Dr Pepper. Now you've almost cut your caffeine umbilical. It's going to be hard. I used something called Energy Bomb, which contains all sorts of wonderful rainforest plant extracts. It increased my concentration, my energy levels, my overall demeanour, and, somewhat embarrassingly, my sex drive. Sadly, after about three weeks of mixing borderline-legal stimulants into my every meal, I ran out of money and had to go cold turkey from that. The downer was worse than the one from giving up caffeine in the first place. I couldn't face going outdoors, became irritable, and almost lost my partner.
May I suggest glucose tablets, lots of fresh fruit, or sugary pop instead. These don't give you nightmarish energy crashes, and won't usually result in you substituting one addiction for another.
Now, this is the hard part.
Week eight, or as soon as you feel ready - Drop chocolate. I know that it sounds silly, but things which contain actual chocolate, not just artificial flavouring, amazingly enough also contain caffeine. Sadly, this includes drinking cocoa. But believe me, once you've got rid of it all, you won't miss it much. Pretty soon after dropping chocolate, start cutting down on energy tablets if you've been taking them, and feel proud of yourself for weaning yourself off a dangerous addiction.
WARNING: Hugskull is not a doctor. Don't try this at home if you have a real medical need for caffeine, e.g. heart rate regulation. This is mostly for stressed-out junkies who don't realise that they have a problem until they snap someone in half for drinking their mocha.