People like to say that sugar can be as addictive as other bad habits like smoking cigarettes. But those bad habits have treatments options, many of which include drugs. A group of researchers in Australia recently decided to put their anti-smoking drugs where their mouths are – and the results show that not only is it possible that neurological similarities between sugar consumption and addictive drugs like nicotine and cocaine exist, but that similar treatments may be effective for both as well.
Varenicline is best known by the brand name Chantix, a prescription medication used to help people stop smoking by regulating dopamine in the brain. But a team from Queensland University of Technology wanted to see if it could also lessen sugar addiction. Working with lab rats, the researchers found that, indeed, varenicline was able to significantly cut the animals’ sugar intake. “The present study shows that systemic administration of varenicline produced a reduction of sucrose consumption, especially after long-term sucrose consumption,” the authors wrote according to Food Navigator.
The study concludes that “varenicline may represent a novel treatment strategy for reducing sugar consumption.” In doing so, it also shows the inherent similarities between addiction to nicotine and addiction to sugar because of the effect both have on the dopamine system.
This isn’t to say that next time you’re craving a donut you can simply throw on a nicotine patch. Quite the opposite actually: Nicotine patches work differently than a drug like varenicline. But it could help change the way doctors think about treating people with a severe sugar tooth and even present new medical solutions.