There May Be a Treatment for Sugar Addiction, But It Sounds God-awful

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Hello gorgeous.
Hello gorgeous.Photo: Dana_Zurki

The siren call of sugar can be all but impossible to ignore. In fact, experts think we can be quite literally addicted to the stuff. Now, researchers from Australia’s Queensland University of Technology think they’ve found a way to treat sugar addiction — but it involves controversial smoking-cessation drug varenicline, a.k.a. Chantix.

Consuming lots of sugar elevates levels of the pleasure-inducing chemical dopamine in humans and animals, but over time, it takes more and more sugar to reach the same level of pleasure. The brain and body react similarly to drugs including nicotine, morphine, and cocaine. That’s why the researchers decided to try a drug that limits the amount of dopamine released.

For a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, the authors first got rats hooked on sugar water, either made with the real stuff or with saccharin. Some of the rats in each group were given Chantix while others were not. The Chantix rats drank less sugar water of either kind than the rats who didn’t get the drug. (It didn’t affect their consumption of regular water or food, either.) They also tested the drugs mecamylamine and cytisine, but the former is technically a blood-pressure drug and the latter isn’t widely available.

The study results seem all well and good before you consider the more worrying side effects of Chantix, which include feeling anxious or depressed, as well as seizures, hallucinations, and suicidal or violent thoughts. Thanks, but no thanks.