• Dianne Schwartz

The Real Nature of Addiction

Updated: Oct 18




There can’t be a rational discussion about Food Addiction without first explaining the real nature of Addiction. Most often when the condition of addiction is discussed, there’s little reference to what addiction is. There’s been many efforts to define addiction but mostly one hears about behavior and consequences. I think the best definition was offered by ASAM (The American Society of Addiction Medicine) in 2011 describing addiction as a brain disease. Their definition explained that addicts have “faulty feedback circuitry” meaning that they don’t have an “off switch.” That means when a substance that triggers dopamine is introduced into the body, the person experiences pleasure, euphoria, the great “ahaaaa/ummmm.”


Most times, the substances that we think of creating this experience are alcohol and drugs. The fact is however, there are a number of other substances that allow us to experience the pleasure that dopamine delivers. This is now the connection to food. Those other substances are sugar, flour, wheat, caffeine, hard cheese, high sugar fruits, artificial sweeteners, high fat, high salt and “munchy/crunchy.”

If someone has faulty feedback circuitry, that is, no off-switch, once they get the pleasure, they want “more.” Because without an “off-switch” one doesn’t experience satiety or “enoughness.” Without feeling that they’ve had “enough,” they want “more.” It may take a little time for the “more” to kick in, but it comes. It comes in the form of craving, the thinking/obsessing about something more that will be satisfying. If that something is taken into the body there will be satisfaction of the craving but for only a little while, until wanting “more” returns.


This is the cycle of active addiction whether we’re discussing alcohol, drugs or food.


What is your craving?