7 Addictive Habits YouProbably Can’t Quit

When we think addiction, most of us think
substance abuse. Crack cocaine, heroin, even the
relatively socially acceptable cigarettes and
alcohol all come with the stigma of addiction
attached. But many psychologists hold that every
one of us – from the hard core partier to the stay-
at-home parents to the high-flying business people
– are slaves to some of the most intractable
addictions out there. Some of the most common
addictions are even free. And most of us probably
don’t even know we’re addicts.
Back in 2008, Stanton Peele – a psychologist who
specialises in addiction, and is an adherent of the
somewhat controversial school of thought which
holds that addiction is not a disease – penned an
article on the seven hardest addictions to give up.
The methodology for his unusual conclusions can
be found here. While some of the most addictive
substances Peele lists aren’t particularly
contentious, the more generally obvious addictions
rank lower on the list than some ‘addictive’ habits
or substances which most of us would class as
pretty innocuous. The more damaging and more
immediately addictive of the list are, Peele’s
theory goes, ‘easier’ to give up, while the less
obvious and more insidious addictions are arguably
less inherently addictive. While we may all use the
latter substances or partake in the latter
experiences without being addicted, a dependency
– once developed – is difficult to identify and more
difficult to escape. Below, we’ve compiled
information on the seven hardest addictions to give
up, elucidating Peele’s theories. Are you an addict?
The following list might make you think twice
about your response to that question.
7. Cocaine
Cocaine, a stimulant that increases levels of
dopamine (that feel-good chemical), is one of the
most popular illegal drugs in the world. It’s the
second most commonly trafficked drug in the
world, and tens of millions of American adults have
reportedly used cocaine at least once. A 2006
survey worryingly revealed that over 8% of twelfth
grade students had tried the drug and it’s one of
the most commonly used illegal substances across
the pond in Europe, too. Numbers decline when
discussing frequency of use, however – the
National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that
1.1% of 18 – 25 year old Americans have used the
drug, but that decreases to 0.6% for the 26 + age
group, suggesting that many one-time users quit
before they hit their late 20s. If an addiction
develops unchecked, though, users’ reward system
is dulled and they may find they’re unable to attain
a feeling of elation without the drug.
6. Alcohol
It’s generally accepted that alcohol addiction is an
intractable one, and most believe that total
abstinence is the only way to escape alcoholism.
Alcohol is also, of course, one of the most widely
and commonly used drugs in the world. Around
90% of American adults over the age of 18 will
drink alcohol during their life, and – according to
the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse – 56% of all
adults will have consumed alcohol in the last
month. Alcohol use is not synonymous with
addiction: Most of those 56% will not be classed as
alcoholics. For the around 17 million American
adults who do suffer from alcohol use disorders,
however, escaping this burden can be very difficult.
Dr. Lance Dodes, former director of substance
abuse at Harvard’s McLean hospital, reports that
Alcoholics Anonymous has a 5% – 10% success rate
– this is not an indictment of the organisation, but a
testament to just how difficult giving up can be for
5. Valium
Valium was historically one of the most commonly
prescribed anti-depressants on the market, but it’s
highly addictive if abused. It’s relatively easy to
obtain, and socially acceptable – so much so that is
gained the nickname ‘Mother’s Little Helper’,
marking it out as a drug that’s thought to be most
commonly abused by middle-aged, middle-class
stay-at-home moms. This cutesy nickname is
misleading, and belies the insidious nature of this
highly addictive and hard to quit drug. Prescription
of valium and other anti-depressants reportedly
reached 60 million in 2010. Withdrawal symptoms
are similar to cocaine, in that someone dependent
on anti-depressants can have difficulties producing
‘happy’ chemicals without it. The pseudo-
respectability and attainability of prescription drugs
means addiction can go on unchecked for long
periods of time, making it all the more difficult to
4. Heroin

Heroin and any other intense analgesics aren’t
easy to obtain. Heroin is a Class A illegal drug – but
it’s almost impossibly addictive to those who try it.
Other powerful analgesics are often carefully
administered in hospitals – lots of us may have had
morphine after an operation, for example, without
becoming dependent. But the dangerous mix of
chemicals in heroin, the impossibility to trace its
origins or its contents, and the unmonitored way in
which it’s taken make it a powerfully dangerous
cocktail which can be – and very often is – highly
and even fatally addictive. Heroin use has
increased in recent years, as it become cheaper
and more accessible. Users increased by 300,000 –
almost 100% – between 2007 and 2012.
Worryingly, a market for the drug has emerged
among the ever-increasing number of people who
have become dependent on other weaker, too-
freely prescribed pain killers.
3. Cigarettes
Around 20% of Americans smoke cigarettes
habitually. It’s a dangerous habit, the risks of which
we’re constantly warned. Yet, a fifth of the
American and European populations indulge in it.
This fact, in itself, tells us a lot about just how
addictive smoking is. The smoking cessation
industry is currently valued at around $219 million,
and is growing year on year. The investment being
made in quitting smoking isn’t reflected in the
numbers of people who are actually quitting – the
smoking cessation industry is growing while the
global tobacco consumption per capita continues to
increase, indicating that knowledge of the dangers
of smoking combined with the will to quit still isn’t
sufficient for most smokers to quit the habit.
2. Fatty Foods
A 2011 report by Bloomberg stated that ‘fatty food
(are as) addictive as cocaine’. The report, drawing
on research by the National Institute on Drug
Abuse, states that fatty foods can affect the brain
in the same way as cocaine and nicotine, creating a
boost of short term satisfaction and sending feel-
good chemicals around our bodies. Like smoking,
the dangers of junk food are widely proven and
universally known but the junk food and fast food
industries remain both powerful and rich. Processed
foods, candies and fast food consumptions are
increasing year on year, while the fast food
industry spends a reported $2 billion a year on
marketing – much of which is aimed at children.
Child obesity is growing at an alarming rate, having
increased by more than 100 % in the last thirty
years. It’s been proven that obesity in childhood is
highly likely to progress into obesity in adulthood,
a fact which suggests that an addiction to fatty
foods isn’t one that’s easily quit once developed.
1. Love
No, really: Addiction specialist Dr. Peele maintains
that love is the addiction which is more difficult to
quit than any other addictive substance or habit. He
states that ‘it certainly cause more murders and
suicides than any other addiction’ which is perhaps
a bold and certainly a questionable statement,
especially when we consider that annual deaths
from heroin alone in the United States totalled over
3000 in 2010. Dr. Brenda Schaeffer, author of ‘Love
or Addiction? The Power and Peril of Teen Sex and
Romance’, reports that 1 in 2 teens have gone
against their core beliefs to suit a partner, while 1
in 4 teens say their partner tried to limit the time
they spent with their other loved ones. Such
unhealthy behaviours are markers of love
addiction, and if the stats are to be believed it’s
startlingly widespread. What makes it so hard to
‘quit’ love addiction? Peele maintains that our
psyches are, universally, programmed to be
responsive to love and its imitations. Everyone
loves love and the physical, psychological and
emotional responses triggered by it. An addiction to
love, one of the most primal needs, is all too easy
to feed and all too difficult to turn our backs on.
Repeated patterns of unhealthy, abusive or
dangerous sexual and romantic relationships could
indicate a love addiction.


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