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Addictive Properties of Sugar

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Health
Wordcount: 1560 words Published: 21st Sep 2017

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Sugar is naturally present in most foods, but with an increase of both modified food and sweet cravings, people have become addicted even more than cocaine users are addicted to cocaine. Overtime, several people have grown to be health conscious and have committed themselves to eating healthy foods. Some have even gone to the point where they do not eat any type of sugar whatsoever. Before one completely removes sugar from their diet, it is crucial to understand what sugar is exactly. Sugar is a carbohydrate made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Although those who cut out sugar from their diet completely have good intentions, a certain amount of sugar is still needed for the body to have energy. But when is it too much? Several doctors recommend to intake 55 to 60 percent of your daily caloric intake from carbohydrates. This has become increasingly difficult for some, especially those that exceed that amount. Studies have shown that some people have become heavily dependent on daily sugar intake, with some even becoming addicted to it. Some doctors have gone against that claim, saying that in order to become addicted to sugar, they have to meet certain criteria and most people are not technically addicted. On the other hand, drugs like cocaine are known to have an addictive property to them. Most people that are users of cocaine become addicted and dependent on it. The question that many people are asking is if sugar is as addictive as drugs.

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To understand what makes people want sugar so much, researchers have to go all the way back and understand the principles of sugar. In essence, sugar is a carbohydrate that is split into several categories of identification. Not all sugar is the same; similar to how not all drugs are the same. There are several types of sugars such as beet sugar, white sugar, powdered sugar, malt sugar, etc. ‘Simple carbohydrates, or simple sugars, are composed of monosaccharide or disaccharide units. Common monosaccharides (carbohydrates composed of single sugar units) include glucose, fructose, and galactose’ (James). Fructose is the sugar present in fruits. Lactose is present in milk sugar. Maltose is present in grain products. And sucrose, one of the most common, is present in sugar cane and sugar beets. All of these types of sugar differ in the amount an individual should eat. They also differ in taste, with some sweeter than the other. “Any food where sucrose, fructose, glucose, corn syrup, honey, or other sugars are listed as the first ingredient on the packaging can be defined as sweets” (Schmitt).

Just as there are different types of sugars each having different qualities and properties, in the same way drugs, specifically psychoactive drugs, can be divided into four main categories. Those are: stimulants, depressants, opiates and hallucinogens. All of them are addictive and induce dependence. Stimulants, like cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy, stimulate the central nervous system. Depressants have an opposite effect by slowing down the central nervous system (CNS). Examples of depressants are alcohol and cannabis. Opiates also act in the same way as depressants and slow down the CNS. Some well-known opiates are heroin, morphine, opium and methadone. Hallucinogens change a person’s perception of reality and time. Commonly used hallucinogens are LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms).

Addiction has both a biological and behavioral component. Our brains instinctively find certain things pleasurable, such as eating certain foods and having sexual intercourse. The brain has a specific reward circuitry that makes us want to do what we need to survive. The brain interprets anything that stimulates the “reward pathway” as necessary for life and needs to be repeated. Many things, however, that aren’t necessary for life can stimulate this reward circuitry, including drugs, sugar, junk foods, and even behaviors such as gambling and exercise. (Rettner) The reason we get pleasure from these substances, that aren’t in fact crucial for survival, is because they cause the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in an area of the brain called Nucleus Accumbens. Dopamine helps control the brain’s reward, pleasure and motivation centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. (Frances) Another hormone called serotonin is also responsible for the euphoria that’s felt after ingesting certain substances. Studies have shown that after ingesting drugs and eating certain foods, especially those that are high in sugar, serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain significantly increase. This leads the individual to feel pleasure and euphoria and motivates them to repeat this process. This is the mechanism that causes addiction.

Both sugar and cocaine cause a temporary high soon after they enter the bloodstream but only to cause many debilitating problems after their effects wear off. An intake of sugar that exceeds the recommended daily amount can lead to very serious side effects. That includes an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, several types of liver disease, an increased probability of developing cancer, obesity, depression, increased risk of yeast infections, a weaker immune system, tooth decay, etc.

The side of effects of cocaine include, but are not limited to; permanent damage to blood vessels, high blood pressure (leading to heart attacks, strokes, and possibly death), liver, kidney and lung damage, malnutrition and weight loss, severe depression, severe tooth decay, etc.

Besides the addiction they cause, both sugar and cocaine have several side effects in common.

On the other hand the methods of treating a cocaine addict and those for treating a sugar addict differ greatly. Most professionals agree that the best solution for any addiction include sugar and cocaine addiction is prevention. Prevention of the development of an addiction is the most effective way to tackle the problem, due to the fact that after an addiction develops, treatment is quite hard and psychologically challenging.

Sugar addicts are advised to increase their protein intake because protein-rich foods like meat, nuts, and beans provide a steady and balanced source of energy for your body, which can help eliminate cravings for sugar-containing foods. Taking probiotics is also helpful because excess bacterial growth in the body creates sugar cravings since bacteria thrive on sugar.

Eating healthy saturated fats is also a method that quickly yields results since saturated fats like coconut oil; raw, pasture-based butter, grass-fed milk and cream are all excellent healthy fats that will provide solid sustenance for your body thereby eliminating sugar cravings.

There are a number of treatments for cocaine addicts including pharmacological approaches and behavioral interventions. Although there are not any FDA-approved pharmaceuticals to treat cocaine addiction, several medications designed for other diseases like vigabatrin, modafinil, tiagabine, disulfiram have been reported to reduce cocaine use in controlled clinical trials. Behavioral treatments for cocaine addiction can be divided into two categories: motivational incentives and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Motivational incentives use an exchange system where participants receive prizes for drug-free urine screenings. In other words individuals are encouraged to not use cocaine in order to qualify for a prize. Cognitive-behavior therapy treatment involves helping addicts to replace their drug-seeking behaviour with other, healthier, ways of dealing with their everyday issues. This type of treatment is designed to help the recovering addict understand the cause of their addiction and drug use and to create a healthier lifestyle.

After analyzing several studies on sugar, it is concluded that sugar can become addictive when overeaten, but is it more addictive than cocaine? Statistics show that the effects of sugar addiction is to a lesser degree than that of cocaine.

Works Cited

“Carbohydrates.” Nutrition and Well-being A-Z. Ed. Delores C.S. James. New York: MacMillan Reference USA, 2004. 2 vols.

Frances, Allen. “Dopamine.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. Psychology Today, June 2013. Web. 04 Dec. 2014.

Rettner, Rachael. “Is Sugar a Drug? Addiction Explained.” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.

Schmitt, B.D. “Sugar and Sweets.” RelayClinical Education. Cengage Learning, Feb. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 20″Sugar 101.” Sugar 101. American Heart Association, 19 Nov. 2014. Web.24 Nov.. 2014.

Schmitt, Barton. “Sugar and Sweets.” Pediatric Advisor:. Children’s Health Network, 15 May 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

Taubes, Gary. “Is Sugar Toxic?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Apr. 2011. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

Venuto, Tom. “Is Junk Food As Addictive As Heroin?” Basilandspice.com. Cengage Learning, 3 Nov. 2009. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.


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