When most people contemplate addiction, they think about cigarettes, alcohol, and illicit drugs like crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. And certainly those substances are highly addictive—they are incredibly difficult to quit once a person is hooked, and prolonged use/abuse typically results in any number of negative life consequences. But these obvious potential addictions are far from the only possible problem areas.
Though addiction has traditionally been viewed purely in terms of substances, the American Society of Addiction Medicine now embraces a much broader definition that encompasses not only drug and alcohol abuse, but process (behavioral) addictions. Of course, everything we ingest is a substance of some sort, and everything we do is a behavior of some sort, so just about anything can become an addiction. Below is a short list of things many of us eat, drink, or do on a regular basis that can and sometimes do turn into addictions.
1) Guzzling Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that occurs naturally in coffee, tea, and yerba mate plants. It is also added to numerous consumer products, including a wide variety of sodas, some candies, and most “energy” drinks. Regular caffeine users, even those who take in as little as 100 milligrams per day—the amount in half a cup of coffee—can develop physical dependency and experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, irritability, nausea, and fatigue when they don’t get their fix. While some people may think they just like coffee or other caffeinated products, many actually consume caffeine to stave off withdrawal symptoms (morning lethargy, mid-afternoon headache, etc). For the most part, the consequences of caffeine addiction are mild, though some people do experience anxiety or rapid heartbeat when caffeine is consumed to excess, and others may miss work or social engagements while dealing with symptoms of withdrawal.
2) Snacking on Junk Food
Here’s a scary thought: Brain imaging shows that high-sugar, high-fat foods activate the same regions of the brain as heroin, opium, and morphine. In other words, processed sugar and fat (along with processed wheat and salt) stimulate the rewards center of the brain, causing many …