Addiction Functional Medicine

Do I Have an Addiction? I don’t think so. (Part 1)


Raise your hand if you think you have an addiction!

You think you don’t have any? Well, maybe you are right, but maybe you are not.

Do you know you can be addicted to all kinds of things. We think of addictions mainly in relationship to drugs and alcohol, but addiction has a much bigger picture than drug and alcohol. 

Addictions can be related to:

  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Behavior
  • Substances/drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Social media/gaming
  • Creating circumstances, going somewhere 
  • And much more

Addiction is a Learned Behavior

In case you don’t know, addiction is a learned behavior. Yes, your biochemistry/yourself, will teach your body/yourself to behave a certain way because it will give you a big reward. If you are feeling good, your body/you will want more of this.

The learned behavior equals reward. 

So, your body says: “YES” do it again and again. And after a while it will need a bigger hit to feel this reward. So, your body will say: “do it again and again and again.”

Increasing Addictions

Since the pandemic addictions have increased tremendously.

Here are some statistics:

  • 41% increase in alcohol intake
  • 18% increase in overdose
  • 47% of adults admit to overeating with the inability to stop
  • 60% increase in eating disorders
  • Stress levels have doubled since the beginning of the pandemic
  • 59% of Canadians report worsening of their mental health
  • 44% report feeling anxious all the time
  • Anxiety and depression have increased 24.6%
  • 20% of people will experience an addiction during their lifetime
  • Those who smoke cannabis daily are 50% more likely to develop another addiction

Scary isn’t it. 

Think about it. A 41% increase in alcohol intake is on top of the intake of alcohol before the pandemic.  Scary for sure because we know how all these things can destroy our body.

Things that provide comfort can become addictive

When we are put in circumstances that makes us uncomfortable, we will try to do something that we know brings us comfort. This something can become an addictive behavior for us. 

So, do you have an addiction? Are you developing or did you develop an addictive behavior? 

Let me give you a few examples so you can reflect on your own life.

Your colleagues have invited you to go out on Friday night for a drink. You are not too sure you want to go because you feel a bit uncomfortable in a crowd and you don’t know them that well. You decide to go, the booze is flowing, and you are feeling no-pain. You are having a great time. You didn’t know this could be so much fun and you could feel so at ease with everyone. You feel like you are part of something. So, unconsciously you have imprinted on your nervous system that this is a good way for you to relax and feel good. This is a learned behavior. Next Friday, you do it again. Again, it is a learned behavior.

Monday comes along and it is not a good day. You start thinking about what Friday night will bring you. You are giving more cues to your brain and therefore deepened the learned behavior. 

The Addiction Sets In

Now, in the middle of the week, you look for reasons to go drinking. And then it can easily become every night. An addiction has set in and it is not easy to get rid of it.

YOU have taught your nervous system that alcohol will give you relaxation. The problem is, over time, you will need more and more. 

Social Media Addictions

One of my clients realized he was addicted to social media. He tells me: “I can’t read any more. My brain reads a few words and then it drops off. It is like it doesn’t want to go further.” So, I asked him if he was on social media. He said ‘Yes. He started to get involved with one of the applications a few months back.’ I explained to him that social media contains very quick messages. His brain was getting a hit of happiness and belonging every time there was a new message. This was a learned rewarding behavior. 

So, when he was trying to read sentences a bit longer than what you find on social media, his brain got bored and turned off. If he had continued longer with the social media, he would have embedded this learned behavior even deeper, decreasing his capacity to read longer articles. You can see the potential of destruction to part of his life, especially with work. All of this because he was going down the rabbit hole and everyday deepening his new addiction to social media. 

Addicted to Sugar?

Sugar is more addicting than cocaine. When was the last time you ate some sugary stuff? A minute ago?  When was the last time you gave some sugary treat to your child/grandchild? You say: “Oh, it was just once!” With sugar it is NEVER just once!

Anything Can Become Addictive

So, addiction is something – and it could be anything – that you need to repeat again and again, because you have taught your brain that it needs this to control your life and for you to be happy. 

Start your reflection on the patterns that you are repeating in your life. Has it become more, lately? Are you falling into a trap? Could you change/modify/remove these patterns a bit at a time? How deeply are these patterns ingrained in you?

Looking at ourselves can be scary

It can be fearful to look at ourselves. It can be overwhelming. Maybe approach this exercise as if you were talking/writing about someone else. Be honest. The insights can be quite freeing and rewarding. 

There is support out there to help you on your path. I am here to help you if you need it. Don’t hesitate to reach out

Part 2 and Part 3 of this blog post will provide some deeper insights and help you with recovery.

Part 2: What is this hit of happiness? Let’s look at the mechanics of addiction. (coming soon)

Part 3: What went wrong? Is it my fault?  And what can I do? (coming soon)

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