They say food can be a drug.  And now, with this recent study that came out, it makes even more sense.  Researchers studied a group of women and their brain activity as it corresponded with their neural activity while having a milkshake.  The results clearly show that the women’s brains behaved the same as addicts’ brains behave when on an addictive substance.

Why is this important?  Because if doctors and other health care providers take the problem of food addictions and obesity and consider it a serious medical concern (just like substance abuse is a medical concern) then they can develop specific treatment programs for the problem.  Not only that, this country badly needs to provide coverage of both physical/medical treatment AND the psychological counseling that is cornerstone to attacking the perils of substance abuse.  We all know that most eating issues come from emotional issues and until and unless those negative emotions are not resolved, how can we possibly expect to treat the ailment effectively?  Think of food as the substance being abused here.  The person who is addicted, in all honesty, can’t necessarily control their addiction.  Face it. They need our professional help as health practitioners.  It’s more than just sitting around in a group and talking about the problem.  Addiction is a neural issue and it needs to be dealt with in a number of ways.

Don’t get me wrong; I have a lot of respect for programs like Overeaters Anonymous and other 12-step systems.  But people who are suffering from major eating disorders (or even less major ones) need our help – and what I fail to understand is why the burden of treating those problems is any less important than if someone has suffered broken bones or is dealing with depression?  In fact, if you supplement the healing methods of the 12-step organizations with medical and psychological treatments, then you have a bona fide cure at hand rather than just leaving the healing process to each individual’s own healing capacity.

Another added benefit of taking this approach to obesity and obesity-related health problems is that there are corporate sponsors and accountability partners who then add an extra boost to the mix.  They come charging at the afflicted people with this product and or that service and end up opening a world of options for people who are otherwise ashamed of their eating problem.  The way I see it, the more (friendly and positive) pressure, the better chance they have at curing these problems.

The bottom line is this:  now that we have scientific evidence clearly stating brain activity is the same for substance abusers as it is for food addictive behaviors while “under the influence”, we can safely say it supports the notion that obesity should be approached on a multi-level platform.  And with the idea that it is an addiction, there should be some continuity in treatment options for all substance abusers alike – including food “substance” abuse.

Dr. Veronica

Wellness for the Real World