Intended for healthcare professionals


Addiction and recovery

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 24 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6880

What is addiction?

Addiction is a worldwide mysterious plague that infests every level of society. It baffles and corrupts teachers, doctors, lawyers, police, and politicians. What is addiction, and why is it so powerful and pervasive?

Addiction is a rebellion against the metabolic basis of life. Metabolism requires nutritious food to satisfy hunger and create health. Addiction bypasses metabolism by replacing hunger with euphoria, satisfaction with craving, and health with sickness. So addiction is a flight from hunger to euphoria, with a stopover in craving, and a crash landing in sickness.

Euphoria is a false, fleeting sense of well-being. It covers up feelings of inadequacy and loneliness with euphoria, but blinds us to the craving and sickness of addiction. Ironically, addiction makes us feel more alive with euphoria, while it silently kills us with craving and sickness. So addiction is a bad bargain with imaginary gains and real losses.

The most popular addictions are sweets, chocolate, vanilla, cola, coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Although some of these are considered comforting and healthy, they all create insatiable cravings and sickness, with Jekyll & Hyde mood swings that reinforce other addictions. So addictions are seductive saboteurs that masquerade as familiar friends.

Addiction is big business. Its euphoria, craving, and sickness underlie and undermine all economic sectors - all to our deluded detriment. Addiction is bad business.

Since our global economy is based on addiction and its vicious cycle of sinister sequelae, our burgeoning bankruptcies and constant conflicts are likewise due to addiction, not political or religious conviction. Addiction trumps conviction, and both need nutrition.

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 November 2014
Hugh Mann
New York, USA