Chemicals and Addiction
Human behavior is determined to an alarming degree by strong drives to obtain specific foods and chemicals. The term "addiction" refers to an exclusive and damaging investment in obtaining specific chemicals. Elaborate habit-structures are built around the single goal of delivering a regular supply of addictive molecules. Successful programs for reducing addictive behavior work on external behavioral structures, first to withdraw from the addictive substances and then to maintain successful abstinence. The control of addiction is strategic rather than moral. There is, however, a moral crisis involved in all addictive behavior.
The addiction to chemicals overrides concern for the welfare of others. Addicts can become unusually destructive humans and the decision to recover from addiction is an ethical decision to stop harming oneself and others. Those who argue that alcoholism is a “disease” and excuse the immorality of alcoholic behavior are making a mistake. Recovery must begin with a mature decision and must continue with the daily re-affirmation to remain a good person who does no harm to others.
We notice similar patterns of addictive behavior with food, alcohol and some street drugs. Alcoholics and drug abusers frequently have atrocious dietary habits. So many of them grew up dysphoric with bad chemicals in their food and environment. These addicts often report they first felt well when they had their first drink or injected the initial dose of heroin. Opiates, like other molecules, are effective but temporary remedies for dysfunctional body-mind states. The drive to maintain an opiate level is less to get high and more to feel normal; mostly to avoid the suffering of withdrawal.
We believe that addictive chemicals are hidden in common foods, especially cow’s milk and wheat and recommend that theses foods are excluded from the diet. The digestion of food proteins may produce substances having opiate or narcotic properties. There are also a large number of regulatory peptides feeding back to brain control centers to form the brain-gut axis. A stop signal to the brain when enough food is eaten would be important for appetite control and may be defective in compulsive eaters and drinkers.
The basic pattern of using and abusing addictive substances is a recursive loop. Cravings lead to ingestion of alcoholic beverages, followed by a brief period of stimulation with increased energy, activity and satisfaction. The gratification is short-lived and is followed by depression with renewed cravings.
The addictive loop recurs with specific timing; presumably timed by the effective duration of brain activity of specific substances derived from the food or drug. Addictive substances are good at inducing recursive loops. Further input of the loop-inducer is achieved through the appetitive system, which drives behavior toward the goal of getting some more (cravings and compulsions).
Once an addictive substance is added to the list of chemicals in your environment you need to get every day, you are at risk plunging into a withdrawal state if the supply is cut off. Normal eating is controlled by similar recursive loops with cycles of hunger and satiety.
Normal hunger builds slowly and rhythmically, but can be over-ridden by normal activities. If food is not eaten, normal hunger builds in pulses of increasing intensity, but the normal person can carry on with activities and does not develop distressing symptoms.
The abnormal addictive loop is more intense, exclusive, and leads to the wrong results. Cravings build quickly, interrupting other activities. In the abnormal state, missing the next fix leads to withdrawal symptoms that can be severe, even within a 4-hour period. Often the addictive food and drink is not satisfying and the most dysfunctional people keep drinking with only brief interruptions and overnight to sleep.
Food (alcoholic beverages are foods) addiction, learned on the molecular
level is linked by conditioning to sights, smells, sounds, faces, and places.
This conditioned linking mechanism allows circumstances and events to take over
as triggers for compulsive eating and drinking behaviors. Recovering addicts may
do well in neutral or new environments that are free of the old signals and
contexts. However, they can be triggered by returning to the cafe, pub, family
home or friend's place where they practiced their addictive behavior.