Are Alcoholism and Sugar Addiction Related?

Are alcoholism and sugar addiction related? Is there a relationship between craving sweets and craving alcohol? Why is it that when people are in recovery from alcoholism, they often crave sweets?

These are all commonly asked questions, and there are answers to them based on research and anecdotal evidence.

The following looks at whether or not alcoholism and sugar addiction are related, as well as what is meant by sugar addiction, and the relationship between the two substances, particularly regarding our brains.

First, before delving into the answer to are alcoholism and sugar addiction related, it’s helpful to see what’s meant by the term “sugar addiction.” Is there really such a thing as sugar addiction? Some health professionals would say yes.

One of the reasons there is often a link shown between sugar and addiction is because of the impact sugar has on the brain. When you have something sugary, opioids and dopamine are released in your brain, which is what happens when you drink alcohol or take drugs.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in your brain that plays a pivotal role in the reward circuit, which is what is affiliated with addiction-related behaviors. So, if you do an activity that causes extra dopamine to be released, you get a sense of pleasure that’s often called a high. When this happens, your brain thinks it should keep doing the activity, to keep getting that feeling of pleasure.

However, when you repeat the behavior over and over again, your brain starts to release less dopamine because it’s adjusting. Then, to replicate your high you have to do the activity more frequently and at higher doses. That is a simplified explanation of what happens when you drink or do drugs and become addicted.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol are considered a disease of the brain because of how your neurotransmitters and pleasure center react to the presence of these substances.

What’s interesting is that sugar impacts the brain in a way that’s similar to drugs and alcohol, and it can also create cravings just as you might have for other substances and even withdrawal symptoms. There have been studies in rats showing sugar can activate your pleasure centers even more than cocaine.

Of course, sugar doesn’t alter your mind the way drugs or alcohol do, but it does cause chaos in our bodies including spikes and dips in blood sugar, blood glucose destabilization and more. The withdrawal symptoms of detoxing from sugar can include physical discomfort and symptoms, as well as cravings.

It’s frightening to think about really because not only are alcoholism and sugar addiction related, but sugar addiction can in and of itself be dangerous. Eating too much sugar contributes to so many chronic diseases including various cancers, and also obesity.

What happens, however, is that when people begin the alcoholism recovery process, they find that they’re swapping out the alcohol for another addiction: sugar.

There has been new evidence showing not just how alcoholism and sugar addiction are related in terms of trading one addiction for another, but also the fact that children who are more drawn to sugar may be more likely to end up abusing drugs or alcohol, underscoring the genetic component of addiction.

A team from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia found that there may be groups of children who are more drawn to sugar than others because of their biology, and while there’s no proof that this means they will become alcoholics, there are the potential connections could be made because of the similar neurological effects between these substances.

It’s important to look at the answer to the question of are alcoholism and sugar addiction related not just from a scientific perspective, to gain more understanding about the disease of addiction, but also to help addicts in recovery avoid going down the path of replacing one addiction with another.

There’s like a reason there’s usually sweet treats floating around at AA meetings, and while having the occasional treat isn’t bad, recovering addicts need to be aware of their diet and sugar intake after they quit drinking.

There is a  potential for alcoholics to then move to a sugar addiction, and that’s another way to experience negative health effects and lead yourself down a path toward premature death.

When people are binging on sugar and also carbs, they’re creating a physical addiction that’s very similar to their addiction to alcohol, so awareness and education on the subject are essential.

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