Drug addiction and overeating, while not exactly the same thing, have a lot in common. At least, that’s what a recent New York Times story on meth and cookies reports. According to the story, those who eat their way into poor health don’t like it any more than those who abuse drugs and alcohol—so why would anyone choose to do either one? The short answer is that they wouldn’t—that both are kinds of addiction.
“No one will be shocked to learn that stress makes people more likely to search for solace in drugs or food (it’s called ‘comfort food’ for a reason),” says the report. “Yet the myth has persisted that addiction is either a moral failure or a hard-wired behavior — that addicts are either completely in command or literally out of their minds.”
Indeed, modern research shows that the connection between stress and addiction is very real—and that to address America’s growing problem with addiction will require us to resolve the growing problem of stress.
Here’s the science behind all this: Every human brain has a reward center, which causes feelings of pleasure—and food, alcohol, and drugs can all trigger this reward center. Stress, meanwhile, can actually impose biological changes to the brain, making it more vulnerable to food or drug addiction.
Overeating, in other words, can be a response to stress—and it can actually modify the brain to where it needs the pleasurable release that only food can trigger. Addiction to drugs or alcohol works in roughly the same way.
“Nothing in our evolution has prepared us for the double whammy of caloric modern food and potent recreational drugs,” the article states. “Their power to activate our reward circuit, rewire our brain and nudge us in the direction of compulsive consumption is unprecedented.”
That’s all very true—and it underscores the urgency of this problem. The good news is that there is hope through clinical treatment—and the possibility of recovery. It can’t be achieved through sheer willpower, though. You need professional help to combat the effects of stress and brain chemistry. Learn more by reaching out to Get Real Recovery.