Sugar of certain drugs, such as cocaine. It

Sugar is
used as a reward for children’s achievements, in cups of coffee (over two
billion daily), and in almost every single food. Research has shown that this
common sweetener may produce effects similar to those of certain drugs, such as
cocaine. It stimulates the release of the same neurotransmitters—dopamine in
particular—through which the effects of other drugs are mediated (Taubes, 11).
Even though it seems harmless, the results of excessive intake of sugar can be
as significant as something as severe as heroin.

An
addiction is a pattern of psychological and physiological dependence of a
substance (substance abuse) or behaviour (gambling, eating, etc.) that leads to
some of the following symptoms within a period of 12 months— changes in
personality, lack of motivation, shakes, lack of concern for personal hygiene
(Tufts, 4). The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a “chronic,
relapsing brain disease” (Miller, 12). Due to constant physical and mental dependence
on the substance or action, withdrawal during treatment can be severe enough to
cause anxiety, depression and seizures (Wideman, 274).

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To test for
signs of addiction, Bartley Hoebel, a professor of psychology at Princeton
University, used rats to determine whether sugar truly causes a physical
addiction similar to cocaine. Hoebel fed them rat chow and a 25 percent sugar
solution each day, after not letting the rodents eat for 12 hours. “Shortly
after commencing the experiment, the animals became entirely dependent on the
sugary beverage” (Tufts, 2). When the brain is exposed to certain satisfying
substances, opiate receptors are what trigger a “feel good” response (Tufts,
2). Bartley Hoebel gave the rats a drug to block these opioids from attaching
to the brain’s receptors, which made them exhibit withdrawal signs— paw tremors,
teeth chattering, and head shakes (Tufts, 2). Along with this, signs of
withdrawal from drug addictions can include– irritability, shakes, panic
attacks, sweating, difficulty concentrating and anxiety (Wideman, 274). The
rats’ reaction to a lack of sugar resembled a drug addict’s behaviour when
deprived of their substance, primarily due to their shaking and jitteriness.

One of the
most well-known reasons as to why sugar could be considered a drug is their
shared characteristic of releasing dopamine, a brain hormone of pleasure. In
2001, Nora Volkow published a ground-breaking study consisting of; brain scans
of individuals struggling with obesity, and also people weighing an average
amount (Lim, 3). Extremely obese humans

had lower levels of dopamine (reward areas of the brain) than those of
normal healthy weight. This is precisely what happens to addicts of meth,
cocaine, alcohol, etc. (Lim, 3). When addicted to hard drugs, your nerve cells
transport less dopamine to receptors on neighbouring nerve cells (Lim, 3). If
dopamine creates a severe craving for sugar or drugs, why would people with an
increased amount of sugar intake or addiction to drugs have less of a response
when feeding their raging addiction? “It appears that people who don’t get much
reward from food or drugs want more and more because they never are satisfied,”
said Monell Chemical Senses Center’s Marcia Pelchat (Conner, 4).

Fruits
contain sugars that the human body needs to survive, whereas the sugars in
things like cookies and candies are in their purest and most concentrated forms
(Tufts, 2). Typically, when heavy drugs are taken, it’s in their straight and
pure form. Therefore, the severity of the potential addiction to sugar will
come from foods and substances with intensely concentrated—or artificial sugar
levels. “Sugar, in the form of glucose, supplies the body with energy. However,
we don’t need to eat any sugar, because our bodies can convert carbohydrates,
and even fat and protein, if necessary—to glucose” (Stanhope, 4). If one were
to take cocaine or heroin in a weak and intricately diluted version, it
wouldn’t satisfy your opiate receptors to the same extent, and would lessen the
addiction and withdrawal symptoms (Conners, 75). As difficult as it is to
completely cut sugars from a diet, focusing on beneficial and lighter types of
glucose from plants (fruit) and animal products can reduce the chances of a
food addiction (Conners, 75). A member of Food Addicts Anonymous shared, “I
learned I was addicted to sugar and other refined carbohydrates. When I
entirely removed these foods from my diet, I lost 25% of my body weight, I
began to sleep more soundly, my clinical depression lessened significantly, my
mental clarity sharpened, I am now more connected to other people, and I have
more energy” (Tufts, 1). From what the anonymous member stated, her overall
mental and physical wellbeing improved after removing sugars from her diet.
Contrary to popular belief, sugar does not solely effect the body, in fact
cleansing your brain completely of glucose and sucrose can perhaps benefit the
human brain more (Tufts, 2).

Two ways
that sugar hijacks your brain are by activating reward areas and satisfying
your brain’s desire for calories and also for sweetness (Oaklander). Artificial
sweeteners contain very few calories compared to pure everyday sugar, or even
sometimes none at all. Real sugar contains such a countless number of calories
and sweetness that it can trigger an addiction in two separate ways, just from
the singular substance (Oaklander). When it comes to drugs, the neurological
effects vary. Cocaine, for example, keeps the brain’s neurotransmitters latched
in place (Maldarelli, 28).  Normally,
dopamine carries signals between neurons, binding to cell receptors until a
transporter (neurotransmitter) removes it. Due to the cocaine stalling the
transmitters, dopamine floods the brain, which is how a strong addiction starts
(Maldarelli, 28). Continued abuse of cocaine then worsens the spread of
dopamine, also known as strengthening the addiction (Maldarelli, 28).

An
addiction will leave everlasting scars on your body. The traumatizing results
of a drug, alcohol or food addiction will stay present long after becoming
sober. Some of these include– heart rate irregularities (higher chance of
heart attack), respiratory problems such as lung cancer, kidney and liver
damage, strokes, psychological damage, and the list goes on for far too long (Tufts,
4). When it comes to sugar and the controversial questioning of whether it is
as addictive as a drug, not as many symptoms and side effects have necessarily
been discovered at this point. For certain, increased intake and addictive
behaviors towards sugar can increase/cause obesity, risk of heart and kidney disease
(high uric acid levels) and liver damage (ScienceDaily).

Essentially,
the study and classification of sugar is still in the process. Evidence shows
that frequent, large doses of sugar display similar psychological and physical properties
to heroin or cocaine (Tufts). From lab tests on rats, vast human-like withdrawal
symptoms were exhibited (Tufts, 2). This controversial discussion is the
beginning of a current, innovative outlook on everyday life and its problems,
for which can cause ever-lasting health problems. Once sugar is officially classified
as a drug or not, citizens will be guaranteed to improve their daily health
choices.