Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Model for Sugar/Carb Addiction

Smoking seems to have had a severe negative effect on two my grandparents - I grew up believing smoking wrecked their health, depriving them of their ability to live and love.  Both lived into their 80s, but their last 20 years of life were vastly diminished by their illness and pain - heart disease, stroke, depression, the works.  In addition to the damage from smoking, they ate a pretty typical SAD for much of their adult lives.  

Due to their smoking illnesses, I become interested in anything I could find about smoking.  The addiction cycle I found to be particularly interesting.  First of all, the smoker's nicotine levels rise with each puff, then they begin to fall as the nicotine is processed through the urine and out of the body.  For the addict, as the blood nicotine levels fall, physiological distress increases.  As physiological distress increases, the body produces urine faster (you know what it's like when you are really nervous and have to 'go' more often, right?), which increases the speed at which blood nicotine levels fall.  In other words, there are reinforcing loops built into the post smoking nicotine drop, all of which makes it feel more and more urgent for the addict.  Imagine the distress if the smoker has to go past their schedule - and the subsequent relief of distress with the first puff ... finally!

Repeat that cycle thousands of times - pain, pain, pain, then "puff"= pain relief.  Smokers will tell you that smoking relaxes them - and it's clearly true.  First, though, it creates significant physiological distress, leading to anxiety and emotional distress.  In other words, it has to make you feel bad first, then it feels good when the pain goes away.  Damned right smoking relaxes you!  But it has to make you feel like crap first!

There's a similar model for sugar addiction, which we can go through tomorrow.

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