The new mental health diagnostic manual released last month includes caffeine withdrawal and intoxication as mental disorders when they impair a person's ability to function in daily life.
The designations are controversial.
"Caffeine intoxication and withdrawal both occur fairly frequently but only rarely cause enough clinically significant impairment to be considered a mental disorder," says Allen Frances, who chaired the task force that developed the previous version of the manual and has been a vocal critic of the latest version. "We shouldn't medicalize every aspect of life and turn everyone into a patient," he says.
For people who don't want to completely give up caffeine, but don't want to be dependent on it, Dr. Laura Juliano of American University recommends drinking it at irregular intervals, and limiting it to as close to 100 milligrams as possible.
Dr. Roland Griffiths, of Johns Hopkins, says he has caffeine perhaps once a week, in relatively small doses. "If I'm sleep deprived, it's a really effective drug. It's very useful if you're not dependent on it because then it's more powerful and more effective and you don't have any withdrawal," he says.