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Food Addiction vs. Drug Addiction: How are they Alike?

For years, there has been a debate on whether or not there are similarities between food and drug addiction. However, studies have shown that both addictions have similar characteristics. There are many ways a food addiction and drug addiction are alike.

Reward System in the Brain

The most relevant similarity between these two addictions is the response in the brain. The NIDA defines addictions as a compulsive drug use that characterizes a relapsing brain disease regardless of consequence.

Drugs and some processed junk foods create an enjoyable sensation in the brain through the neurotransmitter dopamine, which control pleasure and self-control. This is okay in small doses, but if it is continued, the addictions will change the way the brain works and appears by reducing the dopamine receptors, thus making substances less of a want and more of a need.

Oh Those Cravings

Food Addiction

Food addiction causes similar withdrawal symptoms as drug addiction.

Like a drug addiction, compulsive eaters will find themselves craving processed junk food. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, studies have shown that foods made rich with large amounts of salt, sugar, and flour can cause increases in the dopamine within the brain, which causes a craving for those foods.

These foods can be more addictive than some other drugs in a few ways, which can cause adverse affects like obesity and heart problems.

Much like a drug addiction, a food craving can be triggered with something as simple as milkshakes, which will only serve to fuel the addiction. Both addictions can cause the user to continue to use their substance long after everything that matters to them have gone.

Food addictions usually do not involve criminal activity like drug addictions do, but they do have many serious health problems such as diabetes and heart diseases.

Withdrawal and Tolerance Symptoms

Two of the best ways to discover an addiction is to look for a tolerance and withdrawal to the substance. People suffering from a food addiction can eat larger doses of their food but feel discomfort when they try to quit.

In several studies, the withdrawal symptoms of food such as anxiety or tremors are very similar to that of a drug addiction.

Along with the abuse of drugs or food, the person can feel ashamed and withdraw from their loved ones in order to binge eat. Some may even give up their extracurricular due to changes in their appearance or new bad habits. Especially those who gain weight may withdraw from their lives completely for fear of judgment or teasing.

Food and Stress

Denial & Failed Attempts

People with a drug addiction can fall under the delusion that they can quit whenever they want. Similarly, people with a food addiction can believe that they just like to eat, so they do not have a problem. Much of this has to do with the denial of how much they actually eat based on an underestimated number of calories he or she eats.

Recovering from a drug addiction can be a long, frustrating process due to the relapses an individual may have. Similarly, food addicts experience failed attempts at eating well and despite dieting, they can go back to old habits fast.

The only way to recover from either addiction is through treatment with professionals who will know how to handle the physical and mental ramifications of the substance addiction.

Food and drug addictions share many similarities. Both share an influence on the reward system of the brain, cravings, withdrawal and tolerance symptoms, and denial about their condition.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and needs help, call 800-481-6320 to speak with a caring specialist that can assist you.

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