Now that opioid addiction has reached epidemic levels in this country, researchers are attempting to learn as much as possible about the disease and its contributing factors. New research from the University of Guelph’s laboratory of behavioral and neuroscience suggests that a diet that is high in refined sugars could make adults and children more susceptible to both opioid addiction and overdose.

Research Suggests That a Sugary Diet Increases Chances of Opioid Addiction

When you look closely at opioid addiction, you see how the drugs activate the reward centers of the brain that deal with pleasure and well-being. Researchers have found that refined sugar can also impact those same reward centers, which has caused them to question whether or not a sugary diet could increase the chances of opioid addiction.

This particular study looked at the responses of rats who were given unlimited access to high fructose corn syrup to see whether or not this altered their behavioral and neural responses to the opioid drug, oxycodone. The findings suggest that a high sugar diet dampens the rewards associated with oxycodone and could encourage greater consumption of the drug, which could lead to abuse, addiction, and possible overdose.

High fructose corn syrup is a refined sugar that is found in processed foods and beverages such as soft drinks and candy. There is a significant relationship between greater consumption of these types of foods and beverages and health issues that include hypertension, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome. Past studies have also shown a positive relationship between opioid abuse and sugar intake.

How Eating Sugary Foods is Similar to Drug Addiction

This recent study is not the first time that sugar and junk food have been associated with drug addiction. The connection has been made in the past based on some the similarities between the ways that these substances act on the body and mind. Among them are:

  • The Dopamine Connection. Human bodies and minds love dopamine, which is a natural “pleasure” chemical in the brain. When you eat sugary foods or take opioids, they both act as “superstimuli,” releasing higher levels of dopamine than normal.
  • Cravings. Have you ever craved sugary foods or beverages? Craving sugar is not the same thing as being hungry. This is your brain asking for a “reward,” which is similar to what happens with drugs.
  • Tolerance. When your brain becomes used to higher levels of dopamine from either sugar or drugs, it will develop a tolerance. This means that you will need more to experience the same effect.

Getting Help for Opioid Abuse Through Drug Addiction Treatment 

Opioid addiction is serious and prolific. The National Institutes on Drug Abuse reports that more than 35,000 Americans lost their lives to opioid addiction in 2015, which is more than half of all overdose deaths that year. If you or any of your loved ones are suffering from an opioid use disorder, there is a way out. Contact New Life Launch Pad now to learn about our comprehensive and personalized opioid addiction treatment program. We can help you get on the road to recovery from addiction.

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