There are those who start the day with it, others who have it on hand all day long, or wouldn’t eat a meal without it, now government surveys have found that people who drink diet beverages average over 26 ounces a day – and 3% of diet soda drinkers have four (or more) of these drinks each day. That’s a whole lot of soda, but does it amount to diet soda addiction? Diet sodas don’t seem to have a downside… they taste great, offer no calories, what’s not to like?
Those who drink large amounts of diet sodas every day aren’t all that uncommon, but are they addicts?
One of the obvious ingredients in diet soda is the caffeine, and many drinkers might be hooked on the caffeine, but prefer to get getting their fix in the form of a soda instead of an energy drink or cup of coffee. Diet soda doesn’t give you the same kick in terms of caffeine – in fact, a Diet Coke can has 4-5 times less caffeine than a small coffee at Starbucks.
Sometimes people choose diet only because it becomes associated with some other activity or behavior. Like a drink with a meal or when you get in the car. You crave the diet soda because you’ve conditioned yourself to want it according to Dr. Harold C. Urschel, MD, an addition psychiatrist and author of Healing the Addicted Brain. Those who have dealt (and conquered) earlier addictions, to cigarettes for example, are able to easily replace one thing with another, more accepted behavior.
Psychologists call it addition swapping.
And those who are drinking diet in the hopes of losing weight are finding the sweetness of the soda comforting… especially as they have to give up on real treats. That’s what the artificial sweeteners in these products are intended for. In a 2008 study female subjects who drank water sweetened with either sugar or Splenda couldn’t tell the difference, but their brains did. By using functional MRI scans the researchers saw that the reward system in the brain lit up with both drinks, but the sugar did so more completely.
So your senses tell you it’s something sweet, but your brain tells you it isn’t the reward you expected according to study author Martin P. Paulus, MD psychiatry professor at the University of California San Diego. This might be the reason you drink more… this teasing effect may well lead to dependence. Because artificial sweeteners bring positive reinforcement so we’ll work for them as we do for food, alcohol and drugs that are abused. Experts agree that for some number of people these substances offer a chance of becoming addicted.
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Can You Be “Hooked” On Diet Soda..? Continued…
A major sign of substance dependence, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is using the substance even when you know it causes physical or mental health issues. Some diet soda drinkers do fall into this category. Another feature of substance abuse is the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that happen if you try to quit cold turkey. If you cut back on diet sodas you might notice things like headaches, nausea and irritability.
Drinking too much diet soda might be trouble in the long run, contributing to…
- Low bone mineral density in women
- Type 2 diabetes
- Encourage weight gain due to link between diet soda and unhealthy foods
If you’re worried about diet soda addiction and want to cut back on how much diet soda you’re putting into your body, start by getting rid of all you have in the house. If the temptation isn’t right there, you’ll have to choose another drink. Be sure to have caffeine alternatives on hand and drink water to flush the sodium that’s built up in your system. Take the process slow… one day at a time, medicate for headaches and keep at it. Before you know it, you’re diet soda habit will be a thing of the past and you’ll be feeling great.