Addicted to non-addictive drugs?
No, not a joke. Not trying to be too clever by half either. It is actually hard to explain why this does not happen. Unless of course it actually does happen.
It strikes me that most people could not tell the difference between a drug that makes you addicted and one that you become addicted to. But if you think about it for just a few seconds it should be clear that a drug does not need to be both. We are pretty sure that people don’t have their brain chemistry altered by betting on horses beyond what is normal physiological responses to rewards. And yet people become addicted to gambling.
And while there might be some obscure difference between the kinds of addiction that is seen in addiction to gambling and in addiction to a drug, I have never seen anybody argue that it is so. Or what they would be.
What the pato-physiological camp of addiction thinking will argue all day long is the causes that you are addicted to gambling are different (as in not being drug induced). But they don’t argue against the fact that people actually become addicted to gambling and that that addiction is as real as any drug addiction. So while they argue that the causes are different, they dont really have a case for saying that the addiction is in any way different beyond that.
This leaves room for the strong possibility that you could become addicted to a drug – say Campari – by causes that largely mirror the causes for becoming addicted to gambling, ei. short term rewards. This could be true as long as drinking Campari would have a bio-psycho-social effect comparable with that of gambling.
We all know that people of the pato-physiological persuation will claim that alcohol is addictive by way of physiology and that you dont need to explain it in any other way. But then we are left wondering: Out of the vast number of psychotrope drugs and medications, why are none addictive because of psychotrope effects that dont rely on some pato-physiological addictive process. Why dont anybody get addicted to any drugs for the same reasons as people get addicted to shopping, gambling or sexual addiction.
The pato-physiological camp will maintain that all drugs are addictive by way of a physiological process that is shared by all drugs – ie. some obscure change to the dopamine systems in the limbic brain. But what their choice of arguments also imply is that no drug has any short term rewarding effect that is addictive in itself to a degree that compares with the addictive effects of gambling or shopping or other short term reward scheme.
The alternative view is off course that drugs have effects (short term rewards) that are addictive without having to rely on any damages or changes introduced by taking the drug beyond the pure psychotrope and fairly transient (non-permanent) effect on psychological state of the person taking the drug. The reason why this view is uncomfortable for people of the pato-physiological persuation is that it introduces a set of causes for addiction AND a set of intervention options that relate to that set of causes: If people partly become addicted to drugs for the same set of reasons why other people become addicted to gambling, then it would follow that these people also need the treatment interventions that works for people addicted to gambling. But for people who are really in the business of treating physiological problems with physiological solutions, this would perhaps be much like asking a weightlifter to do a bit of ballet as part of his or her performance. I can understand the hesitation. There is then the question of obligation: How committed are you really to the health and welfare of your patients?