According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) notes that 14.1 million American adults suffer from an alcohol use disorder. That’s about 5.6% of American adults. On the other hand, American adults over the age of 20 deal with obesity and being overweight. An alarming 71.6% of American adults are overweight.
Both sugar and alcohol addiction go together. They correlate, in other words. Research gathered by Current Obesity Reports (a journal within the National Institutes of Health) highlights the fact that heavy drinking is synonymous with weight gain. Alcoholism and sugar contribute to the obesity epidemic in the States. Alcoholics switch to sugar addictions, trading one addiction for another.
Alcoholism and Sugar
First off, neither sugar nor alcohol on their own is dangerous. The moderate use of either isn’t a cause for concern. However, a person can develop both sugar and alcohol addictions. Now, some may believe that alcoholism is the more dangerous addiction out of the two. So, when an alcoholic stops drinking but consumes an unhealthy amount of sugar, most won’t think twice about it.
Yet, sugar can be much more dangerous than alcohol. While a sugar high doesn’t cause a large chunk of car accidents and destroyed childhoods, it hurts deeply. The leading cause of death in America is heart disease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention writes that 655,381 people die annually because of it. Most people contract this disease because of a poor diet (aka lots of sugar). So, yes, trading one addiction for another can be just as problematic if not more.
The Science Behind Sugar and Alcohol Addiction
To continue, sugar and alcohol addiction commonly occur together or predate one another because they interact with the same parts of the brain. Both of these substances interact with the pleasure potions of the central nervous system, among others. The central nervous system is mostly made up of the spinal cord and neural network within the brain.
The central nervous system is in charge of:
- Sends chemical messengers throughout the body
- Plays a role in thinking, feelings, and homeostasis
- In charge of conscious, physical sensation and movement
- Acts as the regulator for the endocrine system (the hormone master control)
Throughout the nervous system, little chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) tell the brain and body how to feel. Different neurotransmitters relay different messages. In particular, dopamine is known as a “feel-good” chemical. In short, it’s a pleasure chemical that induces a feeling of happiness and relaxation.
The Australian Spinal Research Foundation writes that the same dopamine receptors that light up with alcohol consumption are the same with sugar. This specific portion is the D2 dopamine receptor. Dopamine levels increase in the portion of the brain known as the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA). Both a sugar and alcohol addiction change the brain’s chemistry in this area. This area is known by scientists as the pleasure reward system.
It’s worth noting that the brain rewards the body with dopamine through activities like exercise and sex. It’s the brain’s way of saying, “good job!” However, both a sugar and alcohol addiction hijack the brain. Since alcohol is a depressant, it slows down certain parts of the body’s systems, but not the production of dopamine. Sugar and alcohol addiction can produce dopamine, which the brain gets addicted to in a sense. It reacts with withdrawal symptoms when it doesn’t get enough of either.
How Alcoholism and Sugar Is Trading One Addiction for Another
To begin, sugar is found in alcohol. Dopamine production goes into overdrive because of the two. Hence, there is a common link between sugar and alcohol addiction. What’s more, is that recovering alcoholics turn to sugar in recovery if given the chance for this reason and others.
For instance, the Australian Spinal Research Foundation says multiple studies prove that recovering alcoholics suffer from a sugar addiction. Compulsive eating habits, like a sugar addiction, light up that pleasure network within the brain. In the past, some programs have given alcoholics as much sugar as they craved if it meant they would hand over the bottle.
Now, science says this mode of recovery is just trading one addiction for another. The same parts of the brain that light up when an alcoholic drinks are the same for those who consume too much sugar. Hence, this prior method may work in the short-term, but won’t forever because the brain still wants that same sensation.
There are other reasons why swapping sugar for alcohol is a terrible idea:
- It further hurts an alcoholic’s health
- A healthy diet means less of a chance of relapse
- A recovering alcoholic can have a sugar withdrawal
- Sugar is considered to be more addictive than cocaine
- Trading one addiction for another instills maladaptive behavior
Sugar might be more addictive than alcohol. A study with rats filled one water bottle with cocaine water and another with sugar water. Surprisingly, the rats abused the bottle with sugar more than the one with cocaine. This isn’t to downplay the danger of stimulant drugs or alcohol. However, this small scale example proves that sugar can be extremely dangerous.
Of course, sugar is legal for all ages, so society turns a blind eye to the danger. But a sugar addiction is very real.
What Sugar and Alcohol Addiction Means for Children
Around 13.7 million American adolescents are obese. Another way to say this is that 18.5 percent of American adolescents are dangerously overweight. The CDC also notes that 13.9 percent of two to five-year-olds in America are obese. To continue, excessive sugar consumption is linked to obesity. It’s also what many alcoholics turn to when they are drinking and when they are in recovery.
Thus, American children who consume excessive amounts of sugar are at risk for alcoholism. Further, a journal from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) confirms that a sugar addiction in American youth correlates to alcohol dependence. Particularly, a familial history of it. This piece states that both alcohol and sugar release endorphins that can make a person feel euphoric.
How Sugar and Alcohol Addiction Can Hurt American Youth
A sugar and alcohol addiction huge issue for two reasons for children. A child’s body craves those endorphins from a sugar addiction. This could escalate to alcoholism and sugar to get the same high. Also, an individual builds up a tolerance when they binge on sugar or alcohol. A sugar addiction encourages them to find these pleasure chemicals in other forms (aka alcohol).
Secondly, when a parent is an alcoholic, a child is naturally predisposed to addiction. There are shared gene markers between alcoholics and people with a sugar addiction. This only further perpetuates a new generation of Americans that are easily addicted to substances. The study within NIH also points out this puts American children at a bigger risk for eating disorders, like binge eating and bulimia.
How to Kick a Sugar and Alcohol Addiction
Individuals suffering from a sugar and alcohol addiction can take certain actions to ween off both. The first step is consulting a detox clinic that can break the bonds from both. However, individuals can start the healing process with healthy habits and behaviors.
When a person is an alcoholic they don’t care about what they eat or drink. All they care about is staying drunk. Addiction means that they aren’t in control of their actions anymore; the alcohol is. So, they tend to have super sugary diets. This makes them further addicted to sugar and alcohol. It also wreaks havoc on the body in many ways.
Beat Alcoholism and Sugar With a Nutritious Diet
A good diet involves lots of food packed with vitamins and minerals. Leafy green vegetables are a sure way to help the body get back in shape. It also helps with withdrawal symptoms from both a sugar and alcohol addiction. Spicy food is known to release endorphins, just like sugar. Individuals can spice up their food to maintain a healthy weight and help beat addiction. Drinking lots of water is extremely important, too.
Exercise To Beat Both a Sugar and Alcohol Addiction
Exercising regularly helps addiction in a wide variety of ways. The first is that it releases “feel-good” chemicals just like sugar and alcohol. In contrast, it makes a person look and feel good. Many people turn to alcohol and binging sugar because of low self-esteem. Exercising is a healthy way to deal with these issues. Additionally, it will rid the body of toxins quicker and lower the chance of heart disease.
Keep a Journal to Track Patterns Around Resorting to Alcoholism and Sugar
People slip into addiction. While it can happen quickly, it doesn’t normally happen in a short period of time. Individuals may turn to substances that make them feel good to mask other issues. Commonly, this is subconscious. Once a person recognizes they have a sugar or alcohol addiction they can see what turns them to either with a journal. Over time, they can track common patterns that lead them to bad behaviors.
Coastal Detox Can Help With a Sugar and Alcohol Addiction
Binging on sugar instead of alcohol is trading one addiction for another. Detox is an important part of recovering from both a sugar and alcohol addiction. Our programs allow members to recover in a comfortable setting from alcoholism and sugar. Our residential detox program in Stuart, FL is effective because we provide a healthy diet. Contact us now to find a sustainable way to sobriety.