“Light” Addictions May Be More Serious Than Previously Thought

“Light” Addictions May Be More Serious Than Previously Thought

n their most recent column, Dr. David Moore and Bill Manville of the New York Daily News write that “light” addictions like caffeine can be more serious than we think. Addiction specialist Lynn Telford Sahl, author of the best selling “Intentional Joy,” told Bill of a patient who used to have a mocha latte once a week as a reward for a hard week completed, but it progressed from a weekly pleasure to a daily must-have, and now she feels depressed if she doesn’t have her caffeine fix she feels depressed. She also feels guilty about weight gain and has trouble sleeping, but doesn’t make the connection between those symptoms and the coffee she’s consuming.

Dave writes that the problem with “light addictions” like this is that the more we use them, the more we’re training our brains to rely on unhealthier forms of stress relief.

He notes that caffeine is listed among all the other drug dependencies in the medical disease classifications; however, it is not considered a drug of abuse like nicotine.

Bill tells Dave that he went through rehab in the “Golden Age of Smoking,” when everyone in treatment was constantly drinking coffee and smoking throughout meetings. He noticed that most drug rehab centers are now offering help with nicotine cessation, as well as offering decaf.

Studies like the National Institute of Health’s report from Drs. Friend and Pagano consistently show that smokers who quit using tobacco when they quit drinking also have lower levels of further alcohol use than those who continue smoking, says Dave, adding that the relationship between alcohol and smoking is compelling. He writes that giving up the “light” addiction of tobacco gives you better odds of not succumbing to the addictive use of harder, more emotionally destructive drugs.

Bill adds that he’s read studies that show that 60-95% of alcoholics are also dependent on nicotine, and Dave replies that he would like to see standard addiction treatment merged with the wellness retreat center models of lifestyle change that have long been used with cardiac and cancer patients and other survivors of life-threatening diseases. These programs are designed for a post-rehab residency of seven to 14 days, and directly go after the lifestyle stressors and their imbalance that underlie the “light” addictions.

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