Interesting Similarities Between Abusive Drugs, Junk Foods And Sugar: If there is a health field that still retains many misconceptions, it has to be nutrition. For instance, one of the most common ones you have probably thought was true at some point in your life was having great willpower and counting calories obsessively was key to shedding those annoying extra pounds.

Interesting Similarities Between Abusive Drugs, Junk Foods And Sugar

Abusive Drugs, Junk Foods And Sugar

When you stay for longer in nutritional and health circles, you will realize something interesting – highly processed junk foods and sugar are just as addictive as drugs. This is not only because of their behavioral signs, but also the biology behind them – how they affect your brain and body. In fact, if you are addicted to these substances, you are no better than a drug addict at the end of the day. In case you need some proof of this, here are some reasons for this conclusion. 

Dopamine floods the brain after you consume junk food

Abusive Drugs, Junk Foods And Sugar

The brain is naturally hardwired to repeat specific behavior, as long as it brings a sense of pleasure or relief. Most of the time, the behavior is related to increasing your chances of survival, like eating and drinking water when you are dehydrated.

When you consume food, the brain proceeds to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in the ‘rewarding system’ of your brain. Your body then interprets this dopamine increase as pleasurable feelings, and the brain changes its programming to encourage you to do the same behavior again. This reward system is not bad on its own – after all, it is among the methods the brain has used to help human beings go through their natural environments and survive.

The problem here is because certain substances today act as ‘super stimuli’, because they make the brain release dopamine levels that are too high, causing flooding. In fact, this level is higher than what the brain is used to, and it results in the pathways becoming hijacked – they cannot function properly anymore.

A good example of this is in heroin use. The brain is flooded with dopamine, and this makes the user want to use the drug over and over again. The pathways in the brain that take care of regulating the dopamine are now occupied with trying to manage the new stimuli, resulting in the release of more dopamine and reinforcing the behavior even more – which is why drug abuse becomes addictive very quickly.

A fact you may not know though – highly processed junk food and sugar has the exact effects as drug abuse does. They flood the brain with greater levels of dopamine than when you eat real foods like fruits, especially in a region of the brain known as the Nucleus accumbens, an area that has strong links to drug abuse such as valium addiction. They also have effects on opioid receptors in your brain.

Junk foods can result in cravings

Abusive Drugs, Junk Foods And Sugar

Regardless of whether you are hungry or not, cravings can make you desire something so much – even to the point of irrationality. However, there is a major difference between the two.

The feeling of hunger is due to a complex feedback system of signals, which are controlling the nutrient and energy needs of your body. On the other hand, you can get cravings even after eating to satisfaction, and this is because cravings are tied to the reward system of the brain, not your energy needs.

When you find yourself needing a highly rewarding food or substance even after you have nourished the body, does not have any links to actual hunger. Junk food and sugars have the same levels of craving as drugs and other substances that are addictive. The thought process and obsessive nature is also very identical.

Drug abuse and junk food consumption affects the same areas in the brain

Abusive Drugs, Junk Foods And Sugar

It is not an impossible task to track the activity in your brain, even though it can be a challenge. The advancements in medical and scientific research have allowed medical researchers to use MRI scanning to track the activity in the brain after you take certain substances.

Certain regions of the brain become more active because of increasing blood flow, and this is directly tied to neuron activation, so MERI scans keep track of these to monitor brain activity. This has led to an interesting insight – the regions of the brain that are affected by drug and food cues are exactly the same, and the areas become active when you are craving drugs or junk food.

Sugar and junk foods can also build up tolerance

Abusive Drugs, Junk Foods And Sugar

When the brain becomes flooded with dopamine, it sets a protective mechanism in place – through reduction of the number of dopamine receptors. This helps it to stay balanced. This process reduces your sensitivity to the dopamine, also called ‘down regulation’, and it builds your tolerance to the substance.

This is why drugs continue to be addictive – because your tolerance is increasing, you have to consume more quantities of the drug to get the same effects. This behavior also applies to junk food and sugars, which explains why junk food addicts can eat large quantities of food in a sitting and they become addicted.

Binge eating is common with junk food, just like drugs

The more tolerance your brain has to a substance, the more quantities you have to consume to get the same ‘high’ you first got. For instance, you used to take one pill of a prescription drug, but now you feel you have to take two.

The same happens with junk food – you feel you are not getting enough of the treat, so you feel like you need more – leading to binge eating. This is among the most common signs of addiction to food, in addition to other eating disorders. All of these have some common signs, which they share with abuse of drugs.

It also makes it easy to change from one substance to another, making your addiction to junk food lead to an addiction to sugar and sugary foods in general.

Final thoughts

You may not have thought of the connections between junk food and drug abuse, but they are more similar than you think. It is just that sugar and food addiction seems not as severe, even though it clearly is.


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