This is a guest blog from Kevin Brenden in conjunction with Westwind Recovery, a sober living community offering support on the road to recovery
People unfamiliar with how substance addictions work falsely believe that people can only become addicted to drugs or alcohol. They fail to realize that food, especially sugary and carbohydrate-laden fare, can be a sort of gateway to drug and alcohol dependency.
As such, binge eaters often experience the same range of emotions, thought processes, and behaviors as people who are dependent on drugs and alcohol. Learn how food can be a crossover to alcoholism and drug addiction and what factors behind binge eating mimic those found with substance abuse problems.
People who binge on foods like ice cream, cake, doughnuts, chips, and other treats often experience intense feelings of satisfaction and reward. In fact, studies have shown that indulging in foods laden with sugars and carbohydrates trigger the same chemical reactions in the part of the brain responsible for reward and happiness found when someone snorts a line of coke, takes a hit of heroin, or uses a similar substance.
With that, binge eaters continue to stuff themselves with these kinds of foods to get the same sort of high and feelings of satisfaction. However, as with drug users and alcoholics, they eventually plateau and become tolerant to the amount they are eating. They must increase their sugar and carbohydrate intake to feel the same sense of satisfaction and reward, much like how drug users and alcoholics must increase the amount that they use to achieve the same level of high.
People who are addicted to food also experience cravings that are as intense and distressing as those experienced by drug addicts and alcoholics. They are desperate for another scoop of ice cream, another bite of pastry, or another plateful of sugar and carb-filled foods. Some binge eaters will even become so desperate that they will resort to stealing or lying to get what they want.
Their desperation and sneaky behaviors are not unlike those that drug addicts and alcoholics will use to score more drugs or alcohol. Cravings are not reserved just for people who are dependent on drinking or using illicit or prescription drugs. They also are found with people who cannot stop binge eating.
Finally, people who are addicted to food will often feel ashamed of themselves, putting them in the same category of many drug addicts and alcoholics. Just as people who are dependent on alcohol or drugs feel ashamed of themselves, so do binge eaters. They realize that their behavior is abnormal and not acceptable in society. Even so, they cannot help themselves from binge eating.
Like drug addicts and alcoholics, binge eaters stand the best chance of recovering from their addictions by undergoing professional treatment at a dependency recovery center. They can learn coping mechanisms and benefit from professional care as they overcome their cravings for foods that are full of sugar and carbohydrates.