The evidence that compulsive eating and drug abuse stimulate the same areas of the brain seems to be mounting.
The article “This Is Your Brain on Food” in the September issue of Scientific American explains the mechanism behind this connection. Like Pavlov’s dog, food or drug addicts experience cravings that seem to be a matter of conditioning and dopamine levels.
The human brain is highly sensitive to food stimuli. We’ve documented that when you show people favorite foods, to which they’ve been conditioned, there is an increase in dopamine in the striatum which is a brain region involved with reward and behavioral motivation. Mind you, this increase is just from smelling and looking at the food, because we tell study participants that they will not be able to eat it. And this is the very same neurochemical response that happens when addicts see a video of other people taking drugs, or anything to do with their drug of choice, like where they normally take it or with whom they take it.
Always ahead of its time, the Onion has long understood the connection between food and drug cravings.