Why the Oreo Study Undermines Heroin and Cocaine Addiction Treatment

oreoHeroin and cocaine are two of the most addictive and harmful illegal drugs in this country. In a survey done in 2009, 1.9 million people reported using cocaine within the past month. In 2012, there were 669,000 people who used heroin. Deaths from heroin overdoses have increased dramatically in recent years, and in fact heroin-related deaths doubled between 2010 and 2012. These facts make it clear that heroin and cocaine addiction are real problems that required effective solutions.

It may come as a surprise, then, that a recent study out of Connecticut College made the startling claim that Oreos are just as addictive as hard street drugs. That’s right. They claim that their study proves that Oreos act in the brain the same way that drugs such as morphine (which is closely related to heroin) and cocaine do.

In their study, rats were placed in a maze. On one side of the maze the rats were given Oreo cookies. On the other side they were given an injection of either cocaine or morphine. The rats favored both sides equally, leading researchers to believe that Oreos rank with cocaine and morphine as addictive substances.

Furthermore, the Connecticut College report states that their study shows Oreos actually activated more neurons in the brain’s pleasure center than cocaine or morphine did. This led them to the conclusion that Oreos are equally as (if not more) addictive than cocaine and morphine.

This claim is irresponsible and defies common sense. If Oreos are indeed as addictive as hard drugs, why is it that people can frequently eat one or two cookies and then decide to stop? If they are truly equally addictive, wouldn’t it also mean that a person could take a few hits of cocaine and then stop using just as easily as a person stops eating Oreos? Yet history and multitudes of data show that this simply is not the case.

What the Study Doesn’t Explain

The Oreo study seems to be based on the assumption that those who don’t stop eating Oreos can’t stop themselves. This assumption negates the role of decision making, personal responsibility and self-discipline. While it could be argued that these same qualities are lacking in a drug addict, it is clear that withdrawal from cocaine or heroin is much more physically and mentally painful than “withdrawal” from Oreos.

Cocaine withdrawal brings on such symptoms as fatigue, anxiety and even paranoia. It is also accompanied by an extremely strong craving for more cocaine. Heroin withdrawal symptoms include bone-deep pain, vomiting and strong cravings for more. “Oreo withdrawal,” if there is such a thing, is accompanied simply by a wish for more Oreos.

Including Oreos in the same category as cocaine and heroin is irresponsible, because it tends to undermine the seriousness of drug addiction. If you have ever seen someone addicted to hard drugs, you would agreed that they bear no resemblance to someone sitting down with a package of Oreos and deciding to eat them all. There have been no muggings, murders or break-ins spurred by a need for more Oreos. There are no Oreo addiction rehabilitation centers.

The Real Solution

A person “addicted” to Oreos needs to exert some self-discipline. A person addicted to cocaine or heroin needs real help. They need supportive family and friends. They usually need access to a rehabilitation center. They need to detoxify their body and then identify the problems, situations or circumstances that led to drug abuse in the first place. In other words, drug addiction is a real problem facing our society. An Oreo is just a cookie.

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