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Is food addictive? More so than the internet?

2012 September 6
by Paul Vallely

Could food be addictive? It’s a seductive notion. Heavy over-eating, the argument goes, shares many of the psychological characteristics associated with addictive behaviour like drug use, alcoholism and compulsive gambling.

We like the idea of being addicted. Through it science gives us an excuse for bad behaviour. Writers like Zadie Smith, Nick Hornby, Dave Eggers and Naomi Klein are now using software to block their own access to the internet to overcome the addictive distractions of compulsive web-browsing. The internet is changing the way our brains works, says the neuro-pharmacologist Susan Greenfield. It’s all to do with opioid and dopamine. Morbidly obese people, and no doubt compulsive Twitter users, have the same changes in the brain as drug addicts.

Another novelist, Will Self, a former heroin user, is less tolerant of internet self-indulgence and the lure of its alluring cul-de-sacs. There is a path between the snare of determinism and the illusion of free will. Turn off the computer. Eat less. There is merit still in the old virtue of self-control.

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