Research Shows That Cocaine and Heroin Are Less Addictive Than Oreos



"Research Shows Oreos Are Just As Addictive As Drugs," says the headline above a recent Connecticut College press release. "…in Lab Rats," it adds, and I'll get to that part later. But first note that the study's findings could just as truthfully be summarized this way: "Drugs Are No More Addictive Than Oreos." The specific drugs included in the study were cocaine and morphine, which is what heroin becomes immediately after injection. So the headline also could have been: "Research Shows That Heroin and Cocaine Are No More Addictive Than Oreos." Putting it that way would have raised some interesting questions about the purportedly irresistible power of these drugs, which supposedly justifies using force to stop people from consuming them. But the researchers are not interested in casting doubt on the empirical basis for the War on Drugs; instead they are trying to build an empirical basis for the War on Fat:

"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,"[neuroscientist Joseph] Schroeder said. "It may explain why some people can't resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."…

"My research interests stemmed from a curiosity for studying human behavior and our motivations when it comes to food," said [neuroscience major] Jamie Honohan. "We chose Oreos not only because they are America's favorite cookie, and highly palatable to rats, but also because products containing high amounts of fat and sugar are heavily marketed in communities with lower socioeconomic statuses."…

"Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat/ high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability," she said.

According to Schroeder, "some people can't resist these foods." It would be more accurate to say that some people don't resist these foods, perhaps because they do not have exactly the same values, tastes, and preferences as Schroeder and Honohan. Instead of considering that possibility, Schroeder simply assumes that people who eat things "they know…are bad for them" cannot help themselves. His explanation for this unproven premise is that "high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do." But if the neurological effects of Oreos make them impossible to resist, how is it that most people manage to resist them, consuming them in moderation or not at all? 

And who are the "some people" who can't manage that feat? Honohan's remarks cast light on that question. She is worried about people "with lower socioeconomic statuses." They are the ones who are expected to behave like the rats in the study, which is why it may be necessary for the government to make the foods they like less accessible and less affordable, presumably through regulation and taxation. Schroeder and Honohan refrain from recommending such policies within the confines of the press release, but it is not hard to see where they are going with this.

So what exactly did the rats do? They favored the side of a maze where they were given Oreos to the same extent that they favored that side of the maze when they were given an injection of cocaine or morphine there. Furthermore, when the researchers "used immunohistochemistry to measure the expression of a protein called c-Fos, a marker of neuronal activation, in the nucleus accumbens, or the brain's 'pleasure center,'" they found that "the Oreos activated significantly more neurons than cocaine or morphine." Given the latter finding, perhaps we should credit Connecticut College's publicity department with restraint for not announcing that Oreos are in fact more addictive than cocaine or heroin. Or to put it another way: Cocaine and heroin are less addictive than Oreos. Which makes you wonder why people go to prison for selling the drugs but not for selling the cookies, especially since Oreos and similar foods "may present even more of a danger."

The idea that people can take or leave cocaine or heroin in the same way they can take or leave Oreos seems inconsistent with research that supposedly shows how powerfully reinforcing these substances are. Studies published between 1969 and 1985, for instance, found that rats and rhesus monkeys "will prefer cocaine to food" and "will self-administer cocaine until death or near-death," as Stanton Peele and Richard DeGrandpre note in a 1998 Addiction Research article. But the animals in these studies were isolated from other animals, deprived of interesting stimuli, and prevented from engaging in normal behavior while tethered to catheters providing "an unlimited, direct flow of high concentrations of cocaine at all times at little or no cost" (in terms of effort). Research conducted in more naturalistic settings finds that monkeys and rats are much more apt to consume cocaine and morphine in moderation.

Laboratory animals' tendency to consume drugs to excess when they are bored and lonely has pretty clear parallels in human behavior. But unlike rats and monkeys, humans are capable of reason and foresight (even if they do not always exercise those faculties) as well as emotions such as guilt and regret. They also have considerable control over their own environments. If the reinforcing power of drugs is not the only factor in addiction among rats and monkeys, it surely is not a complete explanation for why some people get hooked on these substances while most do not

Likewise with Oreos. It would be easy to mock Schroeder and Honohan's discovery that cookies are addictive, especially since they started out knowing that Oreos are "highly palatable to rats" and then concluded, based on the maze experiment and biochemical analysis, that Oreos are highly palatable to rats. But the study inadvertently highlights an important truth: Anything that provides pleasure (or relieves stress) can be the focus of an addiction, the strength of which depends not on the inherent power of the stimulus but on the individual's relationship with it, which in turn depends on various factors, including his personality, circumstances, values, tastes, and preferences. As Peele and other critics of neurological reductionism have been pointing out for many years, the reality of addiction lies not in patterns of brain activity but in the lived experience of the addict. Locating addiction in the unmediated effect that certain stimuli have on "the brain's pleasure center" cuts the addict out of the picture. His desires and choices do not matter, because he is under the control of irresistible impulses caused by exposure to stimuli too powerful for him to deal with on his own. And this is where the fallacious moral justification for forcible intervention, whether aimed at drug abuse or obesity, comes from: He cannot help himself, so we must help him, whether he likes it or not.

NEXT: Senate Deal Would Fund Government Through January 15, Set Up Special Committee to Negotiate Remainder of Budget

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Is there ever an appropriate time for a Family Guy reference?

    1. No

  2. But how does heroin or cocaine taste sandwiched between two cookies?

    1. “Freebase-a-Licious!”

      The Keebler Corporation has spent many years working on prospective marketing campaigns for their post-drug-prohibition line of snack items (aka ‘The CrackWells Project’)

      But really, who wants to eat a cookie when you could inject fucking creamy, chocolate-y, crunchtastic sensations RIGHT INTO YOUR MEDULLA OBLONGATA

      These scientists never know when to keep their mouths shut. The Oreo scam was a GOLD MINE!! Now we’re going to have a lot of 8yr old junkies to answer to….

      1. Hydrox was better, and Oreo was an inferior imitation of it. You could look it up.

  3. Time for a War On Joy.

    1. I know you’re a little lost in the timestream, but that war has been waged in this country for at least 250 years.

  4. “According to Schroeder, “some people can’t resists these foods.” It would be more accurate to say that some people don’t resist these foods”

    HERESY! How can you suggest that addicts are people who have chosen to indulge in fun things to excess?!?

    1. There is no choice. There is no free will. You are the collection of your genome and environment, nothing more, nothing less. Privilege rules the day.

      1. If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.

        1. There is a very strict “No Rush Lyrics” policy in force here. Please refrain from any further… refrains… or you get the Genital Cuff.

          1. Aw, shoot, I thought it was just the Eagles.

            1. Has anyone else seen the PS4 “Perfect Day” commercial? This is how you sell me something. Although not the PS4. Because I’m done buying new gaming systems for a while.

            2. waffles|10.16.13 @ 2:10PM|#

              Aw, shoot, I thought it was just the Eagles.

              EAGLES!EAGLES??!?! KILL IT WITH FIRE!! KILL!! KILL!!!!

              1. There’s gonna be a heartache tonight?

            3. actually, it was more likely Baba Ram Dass or Werner Erhard or Fritz Perls or a herd of other folks…


  5. I like to drop about two large spoonfuls of peanut butter into a bowl and then cover it with cookies n’ cream ice cream.

    I then remove my pants and let the addiction take over.

  6. I have never done coke or heroin. But if they are like the drugs I have done, there are side effects. The high is great and all, but if the drug is powerful, coming down sucks. For that reason, unless you are just a complete degenerate, there is upper limit on how many drugs you really want to do. It is fun to get drunk, but I would never want to wake up with hangover every day.

    I have never believed the scare stories about how if you do heroin one time you are a junky. I have no desire to try heroin. But I don’t believe for a minute that I couldn’t try it without becoming an addict.

    1. I have had narcotics after medical procedures, and I fucking hated them. I felt sleepy, incoherent, and physically weak.

      1. Agreed. Would rather deal with the pain, lesser pain medication, than the shitty side effects.

      2. So you felt like Tony, shreek, MNG, Tulpa, John, et al.

    2. It’s certainly a case where the myth of the drug occludes reality. People ascribe magic powers to coke and heroin that they don’t to oreos. Rats don’t believe in magic so to them the oreos are just as good, if not better.

      I like the study, hate the angle.

    3. I’ve had morphine a couple of times. I can see where it would be addictive once you get past the initial vomit.

      1. I was on a lot of morphine for about a week. After waking up in the middle of a night with a catheter issue and seeing how I felt shortly after hitting the next dose button, I can see how you could get addicted to that stuff.

    4. It is the idiots who try to avoid paying the price by staying high and or mixing drugs that get into trouble. Hangovers suck. Keeping your BAC permanently above 0.10 is probably not the best solution. Or 2nd best solution. Similarly eating valium to come off cocaine and then snorting cocaine to come up from the valium is probably going to end badly.

      1. I’m not even sure staying about .10 would work. You’d still get dehydrated and eventually have a fuckton of aldehydes or whatever in your system.

      2. Keeping BAC around 0.02 is doable though.

    5. I’ve never tried heroin because I hate needles, but opium is fun. Occasionally. Very different feeling than opiates, even morphine, for some reason. You also develop a tolerance very quickly, just like with ecstasy or mushrooms, so I can see why people prone to addiction would escalate their use quickly to try to get the same high. On the other hand, I can also see why fatties like oreos. Neither of these provides justification for overriding individual autonomy by force.

  7. Legalize Oreos, tax them, regulate them, and use the proceeds to fund public health weight loss camps.

  8. Pleasure is a sin. Unless you derive your pleasure from using force against people who seek pleasure in private.

    1. Cotton Mather agrees.

    2. Pleasure is a sin

      True this. Just depends on who your gawd is, on how you enforce the bans and dole out the punishment to the infidels.

      Catholics had the Inquisition.

      Islamists have Sharia.

      Proglodytes have the government.

      1. In America the Puritans never went away. They just found new costumes.

        1. And guns that don’t have bell-shaped muzzles.

  9. Not sure about that. I guess it’s depending on what type of addiction you are talking about. Oreos may be more addicting than cocaine in any sense of the word. But heroin? Come on, people don’t have excruiating physical withdrawals when they stop eating oreos.

    1. True. But not everyone who tries heroin gets hooked. I think the point is that you are more likely to find it hard to stop eating oreos than you are to find it hard to stop doing heroin.

      1. But not everyone who tries heroin gets hooked.

        You can count me in there. One New Years I was all wasted and shit, and some dude said he was going to shoot me up. Didn’t ask, he just did it. I was too wasted to fight him off. Anyway, the high was great. Veeeery nice. Then for the next three days I was grinding my teeth like I was quitting cigarettes cold turkey. It sucked. Almost flu-like. What made it worse was that more was available in the next room. For a price of course. But I never did it again.

        Cocaine is great. I don’t do it anymore because I like to sleep, but it’s a great drug. I could always take it or leave it. But I’ve seen people literally go crazy from cocaine withdrawal. So it depends on the person.

        1. I have always been able to take or leave about any drugs. I have tried some pretty serious pain meds. And they have their charms, but they leave you feeling pretty shitty afterwards. I can’t imagine wanting to do that a lot much less all of the time.

          Ultimately, sometimes you just want to feel normal and function.

      2. I agree with that, John. But that makes this a pretty silly story imho since the harm done by getting addicted to different things is going to vary greatly. Oreo addiction could probably kill you by obesity or becoming diabetic, but I think heroin is more likely to do so, IF you get addicted.

        That being said, I think that both oreos and heroin should be legal, or anything else that someone wants to put into their own body.

        You want to drink some antifreeze? Then, thanks for eliminating your genes from the pool.

        1. “or anything else that someone wants to put into their own body.”

          But that’s the problem. Addicts, at least the serious kind, don’t WANT to put the stuff in their bodies, they HAVE to, or at least they wish they didn’t have the strong craving for it and wish detox were easy.

          I’d always been skeptical of doctrinaire libertarianism vis a vis drug laws, intuitively I knew that drug laws are at least SOMEWHAT reasonable, from a general human-experience standpoint. But eventually it hit me, property rights and civil rights that we believe in derive from free will, but with certain things, we don’t have free will. The body/mind is pre-programmed with DRIVES. In the case of seriously addictive stuff, the drug becomes the focus of the body’s ability to crave things. It circumvents free will, largely. This is the same reason that it can be so hard to lose weight. But obvs, with drugs, it’s much stronger. I mean hell, with heroin addicts, they literally physically NEED their fix just to feel normal, and withdrawal can fucking kill them. That isn’t free will.

          Obviously, this doesn’t mean that the drug war and drug laws as they stand are A-OK, they’re still pretty bad policy-wise, but morally they aren’t the holocaust doctrinaire libertarianism holds them out to be.

    2. Come on, people don’t have excruiating physical withdrawals when they stop eating oreos.

      You insensitive *bastard*! 😉

      1. Sure, remember I’m a libertarian, and we don’t feel empathy.

        1. Empathy is the biggest drug of them all. Dopamine and Seratonin levels skyrocket when experiencing empathy, leading users to try and get back to that high through acts of caring, service and compassion. Thank god I live drug free…

          1. leading users to try and get back to that high through acts of caring, service and compassion getting the government to use force to make someone else help out, but not me!


          2. Nothing is more caring and compassionate than locking someone in a cage for their own good.

    3. Come on, people don’t have excruiating physical withdrawals when they stop eating oreos.

      But you DO have withdrawal from alcohol, and yet it’s legal.

      1. Alcohol withdrawal can kill you, narcotic withdrawal will not.

        1. From what I’ve heard, it will only make you wish that you were dead.

          1. “The lucky ones went insane”

          2. I’ve never experienced it, but I’ve seen it and it is fucking nuts. Almost total detachment from reality. Pink elephants are nothing.

    4. I think it is important to distinguish chemical dependence from addiction. Everyone who uses opiates for any period of time will develop the withdrawal symptoms if they stop. But I don’t think all of those people are properly called addicts. The chemical dependence can reinforce and addiction, but is not by itself an addiction. That’s why people who spend some time in the hospital on morphine will usually stop, feel shitty for a while and then get on with their lives, while heroin addicts will often deliberately detox repeatedly, for various reasons, but then go right back to it because of the intense psychological craving.
      Like Sullum says in the article, addiction is about the users experience, not the chemical reactions directly caused by the drug.

      1. Yeah, but the craving is CAUSED by the way the drug interacts with the brain’s reward system. You get a dopamine boost, and dopamine is known to be involved in habit-forming behavior.

        I’ve studied neurobiology. There are well-founded theories about why coke and heroin are so addictive and it has to do with their ability to generate extra dopamine in the brain.

        1. Yes, of course. Obviously some things have more addictive potential than others. But the development of addiction has to do with more than just the immediate effects of the drugs, or a physical dependence on them. Otherwise, everyone coming out of the hospital after surgery would be a junkie.

          1. Yes, some people are more prone to addition than others, too. Some people may have brains that are more susceptible to habit-formation.

            You combine a brain that is hard-wired for habit-forming behavior, with a drug that enhances the habit-formation circuitry, much more likely to be an addict.

            Also, meth and heroin seem to really destroy lives. Like the cravings are so bad that people will do all sorts of self-destructive things to satisfy them. I don’t see too many people out there robbing liquor stores or prostituting themselves for a box of cookies.

    5. If you consume a great deal of sugar and other highly refined carbohydrates and then stop eating them, you will indeed suffer from withdrawal, albeit not as excruciating as the withdrawal from something like heroin. People who adopt low carb diets call it “The Induction Flu” and it’s not pleasant (yes, I speak from experience). So, technically speaking, yes you can suffer from Oreo withdrawal.

      I also do a great deal of eye-rolling when the media trumpets “Sugar affects the same area of the brain as cocaine!” or similar nonsense. ANYTHING a person does that is in any way rewarding, be it work or your preferred form of recreation or food or sex, stimulates the pleasure receptors of the brain. If they didn’t, there would be no reason to do any of it more than once.

      1. Are you saying the extreme constip’n I got from Atkins induction 10 yrs. ago was a passing phase? How about the initial wt. gain, does that go away too?

        1. Well, I never said everyone who adopts a low carb diet did well on it, but the answer to your question, at least as far as the constipation is concerned, is yes. Low carb diets have a diuretic affect in the very beginning, which accounts for the large amounts of weight loss the first week or two of the diet. I can’t say why you had an initial weight gain – perhaps you’d do better on a vegan diet.

      2. Here’s an experiment for all of you who drink lots of coffee or other caffeinated drinks every day… the REAL “users” are the ones I’m talking to here…

        Try this: This Saturday, don’t have ANYTHING with caffeine in it. Enjoy your Saturday afternoon and drop by here and tell us what THAT was like!

        1. LOL I know what’ll happen; if you try this you should keep a can of pepsi or something within arm’s reach of your bed and carry it with you at all times.

      3. Reactive hypoglycaemia. It affects some worse than others and your brain, sensing the loss of sugar, can give you a strong, acute urge to eat carbs or anything in general, as if you’re “hungry”. You can even daydream about carby foods. But this isn’t real hunger, yet is so common people who go on low-carb and do intermittent fasting talk about experiencing real hunger for the first time… a slow, dull pain in the gut

    6. Come on, people don’t have excruiating physical withdrawals when they stop eating oreos.

      My original time going on the Atkins Diet (no alcohol, sugar or starchy vegetable or grain) definitely involved two and a half days of withdrawal symptoms. It was like having a bad flu that was suddenly better at lunchtime the third day.
      And I gave up smoking by not buying any more. It was just that simple for me. The only time I miss them is when I’m fishing.

  10. I am definitely addicted to food. Water too. I am such an addict, that I really can’t imagine my life without a daily fix.

  11. My internet handle is SugarFree and I am addicted to insulin.

    1. Addiction treatment counselors will be dispatched to help free you of that addiction just as soon as the local PD finishes beating the shit out of you for abusing a controlled substance.

      1. I’m on the needle too, man. I’m really hurtin’.

        1. Richard K Bernstein would like to have a word with you.

    2. I heard that some kids these days are getting hooked on oxygen, too. The police call it “huffing oxy”.

      1. It’s available on literally every street corner.

    3. “”SugarFree|10.16.13 @ 2:05PM|#

      My internet handle is SugarFree and I am addicted to insulin.”

      [All together now]

      “HI SUGARFREE!!”

      Insulin Anonymous Welcomes You.

      Now get me a fucking box of Oreos.

    4. Hi, SugarFree.

  12. Newer research shows oreos consumed WITH MILK more addictive than receiving blowjob on ecstasy while also getting foot massage.

    Serious Science. Who pays these people?

    1. Must have been a lousy damn bj.

  13. American Horror is my crack.

    1. You wanna see my crack?

  14. Yes, because sugar and transfat acts just like dopamine reuptake inhibitors

    1. I wonder if the glutamate spike imbalance that comes along with the insulin spike does act like dopamine? Glutamate is after all, the brain’s primary stimulant.

  15. These addiction studies using rats as a model are stupid. If you are locked up in a cage without a lot of other stimuli, of course you are going to go back and get more tasty sweets and amusing drugs.

    1. They don’t exactly have to get up and go to work the next day.

      1. If I were a lab rat, I’d spend all day in the morphine room. What else do you have to do?

        1. I would palm it. And than later on trade it to the addicted girl rats for a good time.

          1. +1 RatPimp

    2. they probably also did the sex addiction study by watching rats…and by that I men they couldn’t get enough of watching hot rat on rat action…

      1. If you are locked up in a cage without a lot of other stimuli, of course you are going to go back and get more tasty sweets and amusing drugs.

        Well let’s change the test completely then by using kids in public schools instead.

        1. That’s no fair. The kids already have all the good drugs.

    3. “”Zeb|10.16.13 @ 2:19PM|#

      These addiction studies using rats as a model are stupid.

      ‘In related studies, Males tend to find a quivering pink nose the most attractive part of a female, and when suffering from Oreo withdrawal find themselves compulsively scratching themselves behind the ear with their legs’

    4. I’ve had rats as pets and they’re actually pretty cool. They keep themselves busy. As far as to why they are used, I believe it’s because they are more biologically similar to humans than you might think.

      1. “our plans for escape to NIMH must be accelerated… the Large One is starting to become suspicious…”

        1. Can they be thought to clip coupons like squirrels can be?

      2. Yeah, rats are cool. Very smart and social. And I’m sure that biologically they are similar to humans in many ways. But addiction is a psychological phenomenon and I’m less convinced that the psychology of rats and humans is sufficiently similar.

        I’d say the study was stupid if they used people too. Addiction happens in the real world where there are lots of other options beyond Oreo or smack.

        1. You draw a distinction between addiction and dependence. Prohibitionists do not.

          1. I like Sullum’s term (not sure if he is who came up with it) “Voodoo pharmacology” quite a bit.

            1. Hey, you blaming Reagan for dis?

      3. They’re used because they’re cheap to maintain, yet bigger than mice so easier to inject, dissect, etc. And yeah, soooo cute.

        Guy in the lab around the corner did sleep studies with miniature opossum because they’re nocturnal, so sleep when you’re awake, yet conveniently smaller than full size opossum. Very exophthalmic and also really cute.

    5. If you are locked up in a cage cubicle without a lot of other stimuli, of course you are going to go back and get more tasty sweets and amusing drugs.

      Explains a lot.

      1. Certainly explains compulsory schooling.

  16. I quit dipping 14 years ago, yesterday. I still occasionally dream about having a dip.

    1. Chicks dig that shit. Especially if you leave your spitter cans laying around the house.

      1. Cool women didn’t mind.

        I had a 1 quart Bell Jar that I used for years.

        1. +1 Sylvia Plath

        2. The spitters were an occasional problem in college. They were all over the frat house, and occasionally, one of them would get spilled on an unsuspecting beautiful young co-ed. It was usually a deal breaker. Usually.

      2. “she didn’t know I was spittin’/in my Dr. Pepper cup/she took a great big swaller/and then she threw her popcorn up

    2. Snus is way better. No spitting and no mouth cancer.

    3. True dat.

  17. I’ve said over and over that the deliberate inflation of the concept of addiction is making me conclude that ALL addiction claims are bullshit.

    All of them.

    Until now, they’ve relied on the fact that most of us have never been heroin “addicts” or cocaine “addicts”.

    So a lot of bullshit propaganda was put out about the horrible and irresistible physical effects of addiction to these drugs, and we all bought it, because 1) we had no frame of reference and 2) SCIENCE!

    But if Oreos (and shopping, and gambling) are just as addictive as heroin and cocaine, then fuck you, heroin and cocaine “addicts”, I don’t want to hear your fucking complaints any more. Because the guys in the lab coats snookered me when they got me to feel bad for you.

    1. It’s easier to control you when you’re convinced something is wrong with you.

      And denial is a symptom.

  18. Typical modern day nutrional research: discover sweets are addictive and conclude fat is addictive along with the sugar. ??? BS. Nobody grabs a stick of butter and sits down to eat a couple tablespoons and finishes the entire stick because of addition. High-fat foods are no more addictive than they actually cause obesity.

    1. *addiction

    2. Well, almost nobody.

      [Closes fridge door, edges toward exit]

    3. Well, duh?your mouth gets greasy and you can’t even feel, let alone taste, the stuff any more. But sugar dissolves fast.

  19. But the researchers are not interested in casting doubt on the empirical basis for the War on Drugs; instead they are trying to build an empirical basis for the War on Fat:

    Now everyone knows why I get pissy when pro-marijuana advocates start talking about how dangerous alcohol is.

    1. And that’s another case where you could interpret the argument as showing that pot is not that dangerous. Most people manage to go through life without injuring themselves with alcohol. And pot is even less likely to do you harm.

    2. They’ve been trying to build an empirical case for the War on Fat for decades now; ever since the War got started.

  20. Finally, something to distract from the “Double-Stuf” scandal.

  21. “Research” is bullshit. Oreos are good (Hydrox are better), but I eat fewer than one bag per year. Because there is tons of other shit that is good and I only have a need to buy and eat so much. If this addiction horseshit were true, then after buying one bag I would become hooked and would buy only Oreos all the time and I would be a fat fuck. That’s how it happened with the cocaine.

    1. That’s how it happened with the cocaine.

      Minus the fat fuck part, I assume.

    2. I’m confident I’d be just as fat if cookies never existed, for the same reason: There’s all that other food too.

  22. I have never heard of anyone turning tricks or fucking donkeys to pay for their next bag of oreos. Purely anecdotal, though.

    1. I bet if you looked around in prisons for a while, you’d find a case. (Well, maybe not the donkey bit.)

    2. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that for cigarettes, either. I’m pretty sure cigarettes are addictive.

      It’s almost like there’s some other factor at work there.

  23. Physiologically, I don’t see how this holds up.
    You can trace direct biochemical pathways between coke and heroin and serotonin/dopamine that don’t exist for sugar.

    Obviously everything pleasurable gives you some kind of dopamine boost, but there’s a difference between a dopamine boost from just enjoyment by itself, and a dopamine effect because there is a direct chemical interaction between the drug and your body’s production of dopamine.

    Lots of people like to claim that you can be addicted to anything, but seriously, there are some things that directly interact with neurotransmitters.

    1. So the fuck what? You think directness is so significant?

      Like, for instance, you think inhibitors of phosphodiesterases are less effective than purine nucleotide cyclase stimulants?

      1. I took a neurobiology class on the side. My major was electrical engineering, not biology.

  24. , “but also because products containing high amounts of fat and sugar are heavily marketed in communities with lower socioeconomic statuses.”.”

    Care to support this assertion with proof?

    1. Yeah, that also stuck out to me. It’s not that they’re marketed MORE in poor areas, it’s just that there is no WHole Foods or Trader Joe’s in poor areas, which is A DIFFERENT THING

  25. Food in general is more addictive than drugs.

  26. I think the reason the poor are more likely to eat bad foods is more to do with life habits… ie. the food is a symptom of their position, not a cause.

    1. The calorie:cost ratio is a factor for poor people. Some carbs are naturally cheap to produce especially when the cost of topsoil erosion isn’t taken into account. Fat has more calories but most fatty foods aren’t as cheap as many government subsidizes carbs like wheat, or mass-produced refined carbs like raw sugar.
      Historically, poor people have tended to eat high-carb; George McGovern mocked poor farmers in his committee that would later establish the food pyramid, because they were obese and he couldn’t understand how people could face both starvation and obesity at the same time.
      Gary Taubes joked in one of his presentations that this same problem is plagueing the W.H.O.; seems mothers of starving children in many places are getting obese after certain ages when fed on a mostly carb diet of WHO food relief rations.

  27. While I appreciate the sentiment of the article, I think Sullum has a tendency to under-play the addictiveness of stuff like cocaine or heroin, and heroin especially shouldn’t be underplayed. While you don’t IMMEDIATELY become a junkie from heroin after one try, it’s pretty damned close to that. Of course it all depends on the person, but 2-4 times done regular and you’ve already started a habit; the problem is heroin goes DIRECTLY to the nervous systems ENTIRE drives system by directly attaching to the appropriate nerve centers; getting the chemical becomes as basic a drive as food or sex, but much stronger because it’s direct chemical stimulation.
    Some things are just really addictive, even if the drug war is a shitty policy.

    Also Sullum always comes off as using smart-aleck argumentative tactics, the sort of stuff that intelligent aspberger cases get hated for in grade school, and that isn’t very effective or truthful.

    And on another note I hate all neurological reductivism and applaud Sulum for coming up with the term. I mean, it is so stupid, you find one broad familiarity in the brain, which is probably the most complex thing in the world which we barely understand, and all of a sudden you “know” that the similairty means the two things are exactly the same? Please.
    Oreos are obviously NOT as addictive as cocaine or heroin. In the words of Bob Saget in Half Baked “Oreos aren’t drug! You ever sucked someone’s dick for Oreos!?”

    1. The snarkiness of the article (and much of the comments section) simply comes across as uninformed and anti-intellectual. An intelligent argument can be made based on the actual evidence about addiction. Such a strong argument was made by Johann Hari, in Chasing the Scream. He explains the conditions in which addiction becomes overwhelming. It appears that one of the most important thing for humans (and many other mammals such as rats) is social relationships. After breakdown of social ties, addictive behavior becomes common, if not to drugs then to any number of things.

      But obviously some things are more prone to addictive behavior than others. Oreos, for example, contain multiple known addictive substances. Not only does sugar effect your brain through addictive pathways but the breakdown of wheat protein creates exorphins (gluteomorphins) that bind with the brains opioid receptors. Add excitotoxins like MSG and add the sought-after mouthfee, and as a whole package you have a highly addictive food for anyone who is prone. And as Hari points out, most of us in a society such as ours are prone because of social isolation that was uncommon until recent history.

  28. First of all, this is not a peer-reviewed, published study. The researchers looked at something called “conditioned place preference”. This is not the same thing as addiction, which is characterized by specific cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes.…..-addiction

    Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes food can be addictive. But this study did NOT directly compare Oreos to drugs. It compared Oreos to rice crackers, and drug injections to a saline control. The team never compared Oreos plus saline control to drugs plus rice crackers!

    So, any conclusion about their relative addictive potential is invalid. The outcome would not change replacing Oreos with chocolate chip cookies, or cheese. http://thephysicspolice.blogsp…..drugs.html

    This is dishonest reporting, and should be retracted.

  29. Eating food for survival, more addictive than drugs of pleasure!!!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.