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Food & drug addictions

ahoy_m8
ahoy_m8 Posts: 2,853 Member
Many on MFP strenuously object to drawing similarities between food and drug addictions, and I am inclined to agree with them (although I'm not offended by it, either.) Anyway, this in the NYT today for those who are interested.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/opinion/sunday/what-cookies-and-meth-have-in-common.html

I'm interested in observations and reactions. Cheers!

Replies

  • JustRobby1
    JustRobby1 Posts: 674 Member
    edited July 2017
    This mindset centers around what is normally called the disease theory of addiction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disease_model_of_addiction

    I do not subscribe to this for a number of reasons. For one it denies free will, which I have a fundamental problem with just from an intellectual/philosophical basis.

    From a medical/scientific standpoint, placing overeating and drug addiction into the same category as Small Pox or Polio just does not jive with my brain. More importantly, it does not jive with the scientific method either. If it really is a brain disorder or anomaly that causes it, then why is no activity present on a CAT scan or anything in what we know of brain physiology to indicate this? If you were to look at the CAT scan of a patient who suffers from Schizophrenia for example, there is a multiple of observable patterns which denote the presence of the disorder. The physiological characteristics are unmistakeable if you know what to look for. We do not have this with addiction. The best we can tell, the brain activity of fat people and addicts functions normally enough.

    Drug addiction and chronic overeating is a bad habit that becomes habitual. What using the disease model accomplishes is to give people who are overweight or obese a ready made excuse for their behavior, which is obviously counterproductive. Here is one of the better papers on the subject from the NIH:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3622902/
  • ahoy_m8
    ahoy_m8 Posts: 2,853 Member
    Well, the article isn't about the disease model of addiction at all. It discusses brain scans that show how stress impacts dopamine receptor density and how that relates to overeating and drug use.

    This is always a striking statistic to me:
    1990: no state in the US had an adult obesity rate above 15 percent
    2015: 44 states had obesity rates of 25 percent or higher

    The article suggests it's not only the food industry engineering foods that trigger the brain in certain ways, but also stressful environments that change our brains, too.

    I have to disagree with your statement that brain scans of drug addicts show normal function. There are many specific patterns, especially in the prefrontal cortex. I appreciate the comments, though. Thanks.
  • bpetrosky
    bpetrosky Posts: 3,911 Member
    kshama2001 wrote: »
    This part of the article really resonates with me:

    "You will literally have a different brain depending on your ZIP code, social circumstances and stress level."

    As my stressors increase, so does my desire to self-soothe, and I have done this with food, booze, and other substances and behaviors, and thus see a parallel to all of them. The cravings felt exactly the same. These days I am in a situation with much less stress and am mostly managing it with exercise.

    I find the oft-used argument here on these forums that food is not physically addictive specious, because neither is gambling or sex addiction.

    I think there's a reasonable criticism and debate there. What I think is problematic is the claim by certain people that foods like sugar are physically addictive and comparable to things like heroin or nicotine. People physically addicted to substances like heroin or nicotine need certain support to get off them. People dealing with compulsive addictions need a different protocol, such as CBT. There's some overlap, but enough difference to matter.

    The harm is where people are being sold on fad diets or products on the idea of a "detox" from sugar or carbs or whatever. Scaremongering people into believing a normal food craving is addiction keeps people shelling out money for things that they could address far more effectively by other means.

    So, yes, the language is inexact and food compulsions could be described as addictions, but the vast majority of people have simply gotten into poor habits and they don't know good strategies to change them.
  • lemurcat12
    lemurcat12 Posts: 30,886 Member
    kshama2001 wrote: »
    As my stressors increase, so does my desire to self-soothe, and I have done this with food, booze, and other substances and behaviors, and thus see a parallel to all of them.

    I'd generally agree with this.

    I still think there's a lot more to addiction (not necessarily a physical addiction component) than just this, but I do think this is part of addiction and that there are links/parallels between emotional eating or the like and addictive behaviors. (I think BED may be even closer.)

    Where I'd disagree is with those who insist that the tendency to overeat or self sooth with food or, especially, keep eating things that are tasty in a hedonic fashion = addiction. I think that really minimizes the havoc that addiction wreaks and what it involves.

    I'd also strongly disagree with those who say the issue is that sugar (usually it's sugar) is physically addictive and basically like a physical addiction to heroin (or worse!), but I don't think addictions need to be physical or in many cases that those that are have the physical element as the most difficult to kick (I've seen plenty of people who relapse when not physically dependent on whatever it was anymore). (Agree with the points in the prior post about detox being sold as a scammy thing based on this model too.)

    But that aside, I think some EDs or whatever are essentially the same and just as serious, certainly (those who struggle with serious bingeing issues, or become morbidly obese, for example), and that there are some links.

    To me, in my own experiences (and I can relate to much of what people who claim food addiction talk about, other than actual BED type bingeing, including the post upthread here), there are some similarities, some differences. (Cravings were never, to me, at all the heart of alcohol addiction. Excessive anxiety, self medication, desire to blot out feelings and maladaptive ways to do so, including food and various other things? Sure.)
  • SuperCarLori
    SuperCarLori Posts: 1,248 Member
    This mindset centers around what is normally called the disease theory of addiction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disease_model_of_addiction

    I do not subscribe to this for a number of reasons. For one it denies free will, which I have a fundamental problem with just from an intellectual/philosophical basis.

    From a medical/scientific standpoint, placing overeating and drug addiction into the same category as Small Pox or Polio just does not jive with my brain. More importantly, it does not jive with the scientific method either. If it really is a brain disorder or anomaly that causes it, then why is no activity present on a CAT scan or anything in what we know of brain physiology to indicate this? If you were to look at the CAT scan of a patient who suffers from Schizophrenia for example, there is a multiple of observable patterns which denote the presence of the disorder. The physiological characteristics are unmistakeable if you know what to look for. We do not have this with addiction. The best we can tell, the brain activity of fat people and addicts functions normally enough.

    Drug addiction and chronic overeating is a bad habit that becomes habitual. What using the disease model accomplishes is to give people who are overweight or obese a ready made excuse for their behavior, which is obviously counterproductive. Here is one of the better papers on the subject from the NIH:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3622902/

    I used hard drugs for eighteen years, and I agree. It's a bad habit that runs amok, and happens from a tendency to run or attempt to mask pain. At least from my personal experience and seeing others as well.

    Well, opiate addiction is a physical addiction. Doesn't take long for that tapeworm to grab hold.

    Otherwise, I say, "Word up."
  • KeepRunningFatboy
    KeepRunningFatboy Posts: 3,055 Member
    Thank you to OP for posting article. Good read.