Sugar Addiction Shares Similarities with Illegal Drugs

December 6th, 2010

Sugar is likely the most socially acceptable addictive substance in the world. While not nearly as harmful as other common drugs of abuse, sugar triggers natural opiates to which the brain becomes addicted over time. It generates reward signals that are sent to the brain, leaving the user hungry for more and causing addiction in excess.

Recent experiments led by Professor Bart Hoebel, a scientist at Princeton University, show that sugar addiction meets all three stages of addiction as defined by the American Psychiatric Association: binging, withdrawal, and craving. Many individuals develop a sugar dependency at a young age when sweets are given as rewards.

In adulthood, these individuals often use sugar as self-medication–a quick fix for an energy or mood depletion.

The addiction and reward pathways in the brain are affected by sugar in ways very similar to illegal drugs. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, premature aging, heart disease, and other detrimental health issues. Like other drug addictions, sugar addiction must be combated with structure and determination. Suggestions on kicking the habit can be found here.

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