Is sugar more addictive than drugs? This subject has been under debate for a few years now. The discussion on the dangers of over-consumption of sugar is at the forefront of the health discussions in quite a few countries. In countries like UK and US, a soda tax has also been planned, applauded by health organizations and WHO, and unsurprisingly bemoaned by the soda companies.
So why has sugar become so controversial? We now know how it works. A simple carbohydrate, sugar offers no nutritious value in itself. Any consumption of sugar is immediately converted into glucose by the body. Over-production of glucose leads the pancreas to release insulin. This means that the pancreas is constantly producing insulin, resulting in the body becoming resistant to the hormone. More insulin is pumped into the bloodstream and the glucose begins to be stored in the fat cells. All this can eventually lead to obesity and possibly even diabetes.
It has been discovered by researchers that sugar can have the same effect on the brain as some drugs. Whenever excess sugar is consumed, it leaves the brain craving for more. It leads to an increase of energy in the bloodstream, giving a sugar high. When the insulin is released, cortisol, the hormone released in times of stress, is also released, and the high disappears, leaving you hungry and irritable. Ultimately, this leaves you craving for more sugar, leading to a vicious cycle – just like drugs! Australian researchers have even discovered that sugar has the same effect on dopamine levels as cocaine! They also discovered that people who try to quit sugar can face the same kind of withdrawal symptoms as those trying to quit drugs.
With all this information, the question arises whether sugar should be made a controlled substance. If sugar is more addictive than drugs, then there is nothing new in our consumption. History is replete with things that we were merrily consuming before they got banned. Some of the most famous products are Coca-Cola, Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, and Bayer Heroin. Coke today contains sugar but in the past, it used cocaine to provide the high. Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, like many other cough syrups, used morphine and was sold over the counter. And finally, Bayer used to sell heroin in bottles, even advertising it for children! So now don’t be surprised if sugar gets banned.