Substance addiction is serious stuff, and anyone who has had a friend or family member who has been addicted to a substance knows just how serious it can be. There is heartache and anger and hope and mistrust and fear and courage, all spinning simultaneously while an uncertain outcome in a high stake event ebbs and flows and taunts.
The addict is consumed by the substance, and the medical criteria that defines addiction becomes his profile. Larger amounts of the substance is taken for a longer period than was ever intended. Efforts to control the amount of the substance that is used are unsuccessful. Excessive amounts of time are spent seeking, using and recovering from the substance. And the addict continues to use the substance despite the negative physical and psychological effects caused by the substance.
There is, of course, the traditional vision of the substance abuser: The dark eyed stare of the drug user or the weathered and beaten appearance of the alcoholic. Add to that mix a sad and weary man or woman, grossly overweight and as much an addict as the drug user or alcoholic. Research shows that the similarities are quite close.
Food Addiction and Brain Activity
Researchers believe that daily food cues could promote cravings in food addicts as strong as an alcoholic’s craving for a drink.
A study from Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity showed that food addiction might be related to biological processes rather than just psychological processes.
Researchers had participants use the Yale Food Addiction Scale and did MRI testing to note food addiction behavior in relation to brain activity. Cues for pleasurable foods were photographed with MRI imagining and compared to an individual’s brain response to items that did not have taste. Anticipation of fattier more pleasurable foods caused brain areas related to reward, motivation, and cravings to react the same as would an alcoholic’s brain if he were shown a drink. Researchers believe that daily food cues could promote cravings in food addicts as strong as an alcoholic’s craving for a drink.
The Role of Dopamine
Rats who had unlimited access to junk food developed compulsive eating habits and gained twice the weight as did the rats that had limited access.
In a study conducted by Johnson and Kenny, two groups of rats were given junk foods such as chocolate, cheesecake, pound cake, and frosting. Some of the animals were allowed unlimited access to the junk food while others had access limited to one hour per day. The result was that the rats who had unlimited access to junk food developed compulsive eating habits and gained twice the weight as did the rats that had limited access.
More important, the researchers discovered that the rats who over-indulged on the junk food had a reduction of a dopamine receptor in the brain that is thought to be important in the regulation of impulses. This reduction is also common in the brains of drug addicts and obese people.
While the research does not contend that drug addiction and compulsive eating are the same, it does point to a mechanism that is shared by both.
Living life well-fed,
BupPractice - http://www.buppractice.com/node/454
Elements - http://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/behavioral-health-news/food-addiction-may-be-linked-to-similar-brain-activity-as-substance-addiction/
Psychology Today - http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-addiction/201006/obesity-drug-addiction-and-dopamine
Published On: November 07, 2012