A new study has found that Oreo cookies are addicting, possibly even as addicting as cocaine. Researchers from Connecticut College looked at rats’ behavior when presented with Oreo cookies, and found that the rats behaved the same for Oreos as they did for cocaine.
Comparing Oreos to Cocaine
Researchers gave rats the choice between rice cakes or Oreos, and the rats chose Oreos every time. In a similar study, the rats chose between an injection of cocaine and a saline injection, with cocaine being the much more popular substance. The study author, Joseph Schroeder, compared the high sugar content of Oreos to the addictive properties of drugs like cocaine.
“These findings suggest that high fat/sugar foods and drugs of abuse trigger brain addictive processes to the same degree and lend support to the hypothesis that maladaptive eating behaviors contributing to obesity can be compared to drug addiction,” neuroscience assistant professor Joseph Schroeder’s team writes in a statement describing the study.
While the study compares Oreos to cocaine, there has not been a study that actually makes subjects choose between Oreos and cocaine. While sugary and fatty foods can trigger the pleasure center of the brain and lead the individual to want more, experts are unclear whether food can be as addicting as drugs or alcohol.
Critics say researchers of the Oreo study jumped to conclusions that just weren’t there. “The study performed cannot determine whether Oreos are as addictive as cocaine,” said Edythe London, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. “That question is best addressed in a comparison of how hard a rat will work for Oreos versus cocaine — how many times a rat will press a lever to get one or the other.”
Effects of Drugs on the Brain
What we do know is that certain drugs are addicting, and that they target dopamine in the brain’s reward system. By over stimulating the brain through repeated highs, the individual experiences cravings for more highs. Over time, the brain produces less dopamine on its own, and begins to rely completely on drugs to stimulate it. The effect is that the individual begins drug-seeking behavior in an attempt to get more of their substance.
Drug addiction is not a problem that can go away on its own. A person can’t control their urges by just trying hard enough. Detox, therapy, and counseling are necessary to help an individual overcome an addiction to drugs.
More research must be done on sugar and Oreos to determine the control these foods can have over the brain. We do know, however, that drug addiction controls lives, and must be treated by experienced professionals.