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Health and Wellness

Adding to the list of addictions

It is well-known that gambling, drugs and alcohol are addictive to some people; however, there are other emerging habits that have not been officially classified as addictions, but are under close scrutiny to see if they fit the addiction spectrum.Sugar, video games and smartphones are not classified as addictive substances by the American Psychiatric Association, but scientific data demonstrates disruptive behavior in their overuse.According to the Drug Abuse website, the combination of salt, sugar and fat can create cravings and urges that are eerily similar to drug addiction. The primary problem is sugar, which can be even more ìrewarding and attractiveî than something like cocaine, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.The Rutgers website shares statistics on peopleís intake of sugar: The average American consumes 17 teaspoons (71.14 grams) of sugars per day ó more than three times the World Health Organizationís recommended standard!The WHO states that an adult living on a standard 2,000 calorie diet should aim to consume about 25 grams of sugar per day.Studies have been conducted to determine the comparable aspects of drugs and sugar. The NationalCenter for Biotechnology Information website states ìthe theory is formulated that intermittent, excessive intake of sugar can have dopaminergic, cholinergic and opioid effects that are similar to psychostimulants and opiates, albeit smaller in magnitude.The overall effect of these neurochemical adaptations is mild, but well-defined, dependency.îVideo gaming has become a popular activity for all ages; however, it has created a new problem. The Net Addiction website states, ìGamers who become hooked show clear signs of addiction. Like a drug, gamers who play almost every day, play for extended periods of time (over 4 hours), get restless or irritable if they canít play, and sacrifice other social activities just to game are showing signs of addiction.îThe chemical release in the brain is what keeps people craving gratification. The Mayo Clinic Health System website states ìÖ hyperarousal also can be triggered by a release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical thatís released in the brain when we experience success or achievement. Itís the same dopamine release process that triggers addiction to video games, screens and chemicals, such as alcohol.îSimilar to playing video games, the same chemical is released in the brain when people use their smartphones.According to the Healthline website, because so many people use their smartphones as tools of social interaction, they become accustomed to constantly checking them for that hit of dopamine thatís released when they connect with others on social media or some other app.From the Health website, according to research from the media analytics company comScore, ìThe average American adult spent approximately 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphone every single day in 2017. Tally up the hours weíre projected to spend on social media apps over a lifetime and the sum comes to a whopping 5 years and 4 months. To put that in perspective, itís 36% more time than any of us spend eating and drinking.îWith the obsessive use of phones, people can display behaviors akin to a gambling addiction. From the Healthline website, itís worth noting that there are some important similarities between smartphone overuse and behavioral addictions like compulsive gambling. The similarities include loss of control over the behavior, persistence or having real difficulty limiting the behavior, tolerance, the need to engage in the behavior more often to get the same feeling, severe negative consequences stemming from the behavior, withdrawal, or feelings of irritability and anxiety when the behavior isnít practiced, relapse or picking up the habit again after periods of avoidance.Cell photos and social media have been a way to easily connect to others; however, becoming addicted to that connection is another thing. Remember the old adage, ìToo much of a good thing Ö .î!

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