Transferring Addictions from Drugs to Sugars

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • If you have ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous or a Narcotics Anonymous meeting you might have noticed that coffee is a pretty popular drink among those in attendance. 


    Shortly after crushing out one final cigarette before making their way into the meeting, group members help themselves to a cup of coffee from the waiting pot, spoon in the desired amount of sugar, and scoop up a few cookies before taking a seat. Okay, fine. 

     

    Freeing oneself from an addiction is no easy task, and if a few cigarettes, a cup of coffee, and some chocolate chip cookies helps to ease cravings then by all means, induldge a bit. If soothing the brain's reward center to keep greater dangers at arm's length is a working model, then what's the harm? The disputable answer to that question is that sugar might be the harm. 

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    Clean, Sober, and Obese

    It is not that unusual for those in recovery to gain weight. Given the physical beating they have administered upon themselves and the emaciated condition many have fallen into, weight gain can very well be viewed as something positive. The problem that a number of people in recovery have, is that the weight gain continues long after the substance use has stopped. 

     

    Some people in recovery identify the high-calorie, high-sugar food served in rehabilitation as the source of their weight gain. While fruits, veggies and proteins are on the menu in rehab, so is refined sugar, soda, sugary juices and sugary, fatty snacks. These eating habits follow patients after they are discharged. 

     

    Dr. Pamela Peeke, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of "The Hunger Fix,"  is among those who believe that substituting sugar for a drug of choice is simply tranferring addictions. 

     

    Research shows that food and drugs have a similar influence on the brain's reward center and that sugar stimulates cravings. It has also been found that Oreo cookies activate the pleasure center in the brains of lab rats as much as cocaine and morphine. This equation breaks down to more desire for junk food equals weight gain.   

     

    Dr. Marianne Chai, medical director at the New York Center for Living, contends that some people relapse due negativity surrounding the amount of weight they have gained. The hurry to lose the weight promotes the use of caffeine, stimulants, and sometimes cocaine as sources of remedy. 

     

    Where Do We Go From Here?

    Some rehabs have begun reworking their meal plans and have gone so far as to hire certified chefs who are also registered dieticians. 

     

    The Center for Living offers cooking classes for patients and their parents as well as lectures on nutrition and healthy eating. Patients grow their own veggies in a roof garden area and are not allowed processed sugars, caffeine or energy drinks.

     

    Victoria Able, a certified addiction nutritionist, helps to customize nutrition programs at recovery facilities. In addition, she leads weekly shopping trips where clients learn about healthy foods and how to read the labels on food products. Clients are not permitted to purchase any product if the first four ingredients are some kind of sugar.   

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    Resources

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Published On: December 10, 2014