Blog | Alcohol Abuse

Spicy Food Cravings Linked to Increased Risk of Alcohol Abuse

If your tastes tend toward the spicier end of the palate when you’re looking at a menu and you enjoy the sensations associated with eating foods flavored with hot sauce and other fiery condiments, you may be at an increased risk for developing a problem with alcohol, according to a new study.

Why? Researchers say that certain opioid receptors in the brain are stimulated by both alcohol and spicy food, so people who are attracted to spicy foods due to the endorphin release may be just as attracted to alcohol to the point of developing an alcohol abuse issue.

Sung-Gon Kim is a professor of psychiatry at Busan National University in South Korea and was the lead author of the study. He said: “In the people who prefer spicy food, the opioid system is easily activated by drink or spicy [foods].”

Spicy Thai food

Positive Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Treatment Outcomes

On the other hand, researchers also found that the people who experienced an endorphin rush when eating spicy foods were also more likely to respond positively to naltrexone treatment. Because this medication is used to treat alcohol abuse issues, this means that a hankering for spicy foods can translate into a positive outcome for treatment among patients in alcohol rehab.

According to Kim, “Naltrexone blocks the opioid system’s activation [which is] initiated by drinking. They do not feel the pleasure any more if they keep taking the medication.”

Additionally, Kim suggests that those in recovery from alcohol abuse may find that spicy foods work as a sort of replacement therapy because they provide a similar opioid stimulation in the brain. Rats in his study drank less alcohol when they were given the active ingredient in chili.

Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Treatment

While the study does not suggest that alcoholics or those who struggle with binge drinking or alcohol abuse attempt to treat themselves by replacing alcohol with shots of hot sauce, it does suggest that there may be unique yet effective holistic options in treatment as well as a potential indicator that alcohol abuse could be problematic in some people.

If someone you love is living with a binge drinking, alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction issue, professional medical and therapeutic intervention is recommended. Contact us at Michael’s House today to learn more about the types of treatment and rehabilitation options that can be effective for your loved one.