So I am not universally adverse to drawing parallels between food and drugs, but this new study pushes my critical sociologist buttons. Check your animal cruelty sensibilities here and listen to the methods. Rats were implanted with electrodes and then fed this:
Long story short... the rats that had the junk food diet available to them all day, not only grew obese, but become compulsive eaters and continued to eat even when they received an electric shock for doing so. Here's the part I object to (rat mistreatment aside):
So it's not the equation of compulsive eating to addiction that really bothers me... it's the reduction of both to neurochemical processes. I am sure there are biological components to addiction and maybe for addictions of all types. But what does it mean when we tell someone with an addiction that they have a brain disease or tell someone who is obese that eating bacon down regulates your striatal dopamine D2 receptors? And what does it mean for our social and political responses to the problem of addiction?
Stanton Peele and others have done some interesting critiques of the disease model of addiction (of which the brain disease model is just one subset). As Granfield and McCloud discuss in their book about people who quit drugs on their own, Coming Clean, it turns out that a lot of people don't like being told they have a chronic, relapsing disease. Not only does that model and rhetoric belie the reality that the vast majority of people who use drugs stop on their own, it isn't an empowering message for people who are trying to quit. The disease model is not without it's advantages, however. Sending people to treatment sure beats locking them up, and one can argue that having a disease is less stigmatizing than the other popular construct - addiction is a failure of will. But surely we can come up with a more nuanced model for addiction than either of those. While you all figure that out, I am going to have a bacon cheeseburger.