Desire for the forbidden – addicts and their secrets – encyclopedia for medicine & health

Desire for the forbidden – addicts and their secrets

The Federal Ministry of Health regularly publishes statistics and studies that present the condition of addicts and those at risk of addiction in Germany. This is mainly because the consequences of drug addiction and other substances are a major burden on the health system and economy. In total there are said to be 14.7 million smokers, 1.8 million alcohol dependents and 2.3 million people dependent on medicines.

(Those: )

But in addition to the legal addictive substances alcohol and cigarettes , there are other substances that can seriously impair health. While sugar is not an official addictive substance, many studies suggest that food contains too much of it and that people overeat it. Gambling addiction and internet addictionare among the addictions that initially affect the psyche and can lead to serious health and economic consequences. In many cases, addicts get caught in a kind of vicious circle of dependencies from which they can no longer get out without help. However, those who know the background of the addicts can protect themselves and be more attentive to their own health.


Controversial search term

Sugar is found in many foods and that is why it is difficult for people to get rid of it or limit its consumption. It is often not obvious how much sugar is actually present in food. The Associations for Independent Health Advice explain that people consume around 100 grams of sugar per day with food, with additional sugar consumption from sweet drinks.

Therefore, a consistent renunciation of sugar is hardly possible, since nutrition is essential for survival and the line between addiction and normal consumption can be very thin. Many researchers criticize that the labeling on food is not sufficient and that there are too few guidelines, as has long been the case with alcohol and tobacco.

Changes in the brain

The medical information on the Internet explains in a report that sugar affects the brain in a similar way to heroin and cocaine and that addiction can lead to an increase in alcohol. Anyone who eats sugar ensures that the body repeatedly releases the happiness hormone dopamine and other substances and that lasting connections between sugar and feelings of happiness are created in the brain.As a result, the brain requires increasing amounts of sugar in order to be able to maintain the happiness hormone level , and withdrawal symptoms such as irritability , poor concentration and tiredness are often the result. Sugar addiction causes food cravings because low levels of serotonin or dopamine want to be balanced.

Obesity as a factor in sugar addiction

In many European countries, the number of overweight and obese people is increasing rapidly. On the one hand, this is due to a lack of exercise and, on the other hand, to poor nutrition. ias PREVENT GmbH carries out health check-ups in Germany and explains in its health report that the messenger substance adiponectin is one of the problem cases in overweight in connection with sugar.

The report explains that fat cells produce hormones that, for example, stimulate fat burning or control insulin sensitivity. Adino-pectin is important for sugar regulation and obese people in particular have low levels of adino-pectin. This means that insulin resistance can be present, which has a significant negative impact on metabolism .

When the cells stop responding to the insulin, the pancreas produces more insulin to get the sugar, and a cycle of negative consequences such as further obesity, diabetes or coronary heart disease ensues. Weight reduction is the most important remedy.

Hidden sweeteners

In this market survey by the consumer centers in Germany, researchers examined various ways and methods used by the food industry to add sugar to food without labeling it and, if necessary, to replace it with other substances.

They found that almost all of the goods examined contained sugar in some form, and that other sweeteners and sugar substitutes were also present. The varied designations in particular can irritate consumers:

The hiding of the sweeteners is particularly striking, because the manufacturers present the sugar content very positively by advertising it as “less sweet”, “no sweetener” or similar, although other substances also contain sugar.

Beverage manufacturers in particular are problematic, as consumers often consume the high sugar content of a bottle in one day, even though they often contain more than three times the maximum daily amount of sugar for adults. Consumer advocates are calling for clearer labeling of the ingredients and less portion information, which hardly any consumers use.


ATMs & Casino

ATM players are particularly at risk of becoming addicted. Almost 70 percent of gambling addicts in treatment are addicted exclusively to slot machines. The portal explains in detail how slot machine players can become highly dependent. For example, slot machines have a high frequency of winning events and the winnings are paid out immediately. The player believes they are in control of the machine and many of these winning machines are open to the public in pubs, takeaways and the like.

Many need the distraction or escape from everyday life and only realize very late that they are in a dependency. Casinos have their own world in which the player can easily disguise and hide from everyday life, stress or other obligations. The clear rules and codes of conduct ensure that a firm framework remains in place.

If you are addicted to gambling, you hope to be able to win against the bank and the game at the last moment, and constant betting increases your chances in your own consciousness.

Pathological Gambling

Pathological gambling refers to gambling behavior that is ongoing and recurring and, despite personal problems and the consequences thereof, is continued or even increased by those affected. Pathological gamblers lie to third parties, are irritable and restless, limit free time and working hours and sometimes seek illegal ways to get new money for the games.

In the Addiction Medicine series of the German Center for Addiction Issues, the authors examine causes, symptoms and give categories of the different clinical pictures. They assume that around 540,000 people are problematic, pathological gamblers and around 275,000 people are at risk. (Source: )

The risk groups primarily include 14 to 39-year-olds, as many come into contact with gambling at a young age. There is a difference in the starting age of men and women, since many men start addictive behavior at a young age, while women in their forties and fifties in particular belong to the risk group. In addition to being addicted to the games, many have an increased risk of developing tobacco, other addictive substances and anxiety disorders ; for pathological gamblers, the risk is over 63 percent.

Causes of addiction

Just as there is no clear definition of gambling addiction, the causes are numerous and often linked to other factors. The website , for example, lists four areas as possible causes:

  • traumatic events
  • life crises
  • change in consciousness
  • object relations

Traumatizing events can include parental loss or psychological and physical violence. There is often a connection between problems with other addictions of family members or a pre-existing addiction. Life crises can be triggers, such as the death of relatives, accidents, lack of prospects in professional and private life or financial difficulties.

Some scientists report changes in consciousness and thus also in behavior, because the positive feeling of winning and the excitement increase the frequency of visits to the casino or arcade. Depressive behavior is often also present, but does not always have to be associated with it. The addicts subordinate themselves to gambling and align their lives accordingly, because addicts often have difficulties dealing with emotions and developing stable structures.

Successful therapies & measures

Successful methods include measures by casinos and arcades to maintain a database of gambling addicts who are denied entry. In addition, there is the Gaming Ordinance, which regulates the amount of bets and winnings per hour and specifies breaks in gaming. Basically, three treatment phases are defined by clinics, which are divided into behavioral analysis and background, learning coping strategies in the group and problem-solving strategies.

The aim is usually to break through the behavioral pattern and to clearly recognize one’s own problems and to anchor changes. Ideally, the patient is still in outpatient treatment after the therapy in order to remain steadfast outside of the clinics. As with many addictions, the proximity to the addictive substance is a major problem, which is why there should be no arcades or casinos in the surrounding neighborhood.

Computer Games & Internet

The addiction of the 21st century?

The computer makes the world of work easier and provides variety in everyday life. But over the past few decades, the Internet and networking with the world has become increasingly important, in both private and work areas.

This newspaper article explores the question of whether media addiction is the addiction of the 21st century. As an example, the author cites that a therapy facility for drug addicts in Hanover has six out of ten positions available for internet and computer game addicts. The balance between normal entertainment and problematic Internet and gaming behavior is often difficult to recognize and many parents despair of blocking their children.

Researchers recommend setting up shared computer times before young people become more and more isolated. A problem for many addicts is the lack of recognition of their addiction as a disease, since this represents a new clinical picture that has not yet been sufficiently examined and researched and not only young people can suffer from it.

Computer game addiction in childhood and adolescence

A study by the Lower Saxony Criminological Research Institute examined the dependence of children and young people on computer games. They found that 4.3 percent of girls and 15.8 percent of boys exhibited “excessive gaming behavior”, with more than 4.5 hours of gaming per day. They diagnosed 0.3 percent of girls and 3 percent of boys as addicted to computer games. Various causes come to light, such as trauma , personality traits or a disturbed perception of reality.

The authors point out that there does not always have to be a drop in performance, but if it does, then German, history and sports are affected, but not mathematics. Many students also skip school and accept negative consequences for their gambling addiction. They isolate themselves, sleep less and are more stressed. Many researchers complain about the lack of therapy options and would like better controls and security in the protection of minors in the media.

Pathological Internet Use

According to the AHG Clinic in Munich, pathological internet use means a “profound disturbance in the regulation of relationships and self-esteem”. Doctors distinguish between game addiction and chatting and surfing behavior. This disorder often coexists with social phobias , depressive disorders, or personality disorders .

Pathological features include more than 30 hours of internet activity per week, social withdrawal, physical problems and identity diffusion, i.e. the blurring of one’s identity. Online games in particular are the triggers for the symptoms, with an average age of 27 years. Therapies consist of reference groups as a family unit, individual discussions and/or sports therapy and ergotherapy programs .

The treatment lasts twelve weeks, during which those affected should break out of the vicious circle with the help of self-reflection and alternative employment opportunities.

Gaming promotes creativity and brain power

Many game manufacturers and gamers are fighting against the prejudice of dependencies or the glorification of violence in games. Computerbild reports on a study that states that games can have a positive effect on both creativity and brain power. A player has to complete many tasks under time pressure and his multitasking is perfectly organized to win the game.

It also trains hand-eye coordination, which can be vital for survival when driving in the dark, for example. Action-packed games support the speed of important decisions and encourage creative ideas and designs. Nevertheless, the researchers point out that, depending on the previous exposure, games can influence the emotional mood and serious illnesses can be exacerbated by excessive gaming.

Alcohol & Tobacco

In its annual report , the German Center for Addiction Issues provides an overview of alcohol and tobacco consumption in Germany and the possible consequences of this. Every year, 100,000 to 120,000 people die prematurely after excessive alcohol or tobacco consumption. More than 200 illnesses and 80 types of accidents are related to legal drugs.

The authors compare the government revenue from the alcohol tax of 3.3 billion euros with the direct costs of healthcare, property damage and traffic accidents of 10 billion euros.

Tobacco use is declining, but the number of morbidity remains a major burden on public health. The association calls for new prevention strategies, such as price increases or time limits on sales, in order to better protect the population from the consequences of addiction.

Effects of Alcohol & Tobacco Advertising

Advertising for legal drugs remains an important factor. In its 2009 yearbook, the Institute for Therapy and Health Research analyzed the effect and the connections between advertising and the initiation of consumption. Today, children and young people come into contact with alcohol and tobacco between the ages of six and eleven, especially in the media.

In a survey of fifth graders, 100 percent said they had seen a well-known beer commercial, and further studies found that up to 95 percent of non-drinking teens can identify some beer brands and beer commercials. The susceptibility to experiment and start smoking increases with the frequency of media use and other criteria.

Alcohol is socially less proscribed, which is why there are still few representative studies on causal effects. The researchers are certain that restricting advertising could have positive effects on the initiation of drug use.

Alcohol consumption among adolescents

In its report on drug affinity, the Federal Center for Health Education points out that young people between the ages of 12 and 17 consume alcohol less regularly than 18 to 25 year olds. They perceive a decrease in regular alcohol consumption, in contrast to the 1980s and 1990s, but the number of young adults who drink alcohol at least once a week is increasing.

Binge drinking has declined among adolescents, while 41.9 percent of young adults reported drinking five glasses or more in a row at least once in the past 30 days. However, alcohol is a regular part of a large proportion of young people, with 81.9 percent of young adults drinking alcohol at least once a month. Trends show that alcohol consumption is ubiquitous and regularly affects young people.

Addictive potential of nicotine

The educational website reports on the high addictive potential of nicotine.

A study found that compared to alcohol, cocaine and cannabis, cocaine has the highest addictive potential. Furthermore, 68 percent of people who have once reached for a cigarette are said to become dependent.

The availability of nicotine is another factor that influences the potential for addiction because, despite numerous prohibitions and warnings, smoking is not socially overly proscribed. Also, many smoke multiple cigarettes a day, reinforcing the connections of addiction in the brain. Mental health problems can also intensify or influence dependency.


The causes of dependencies are numerous. The large area of ​​drug abuse or drug consumption is just as relevant as the everyday drugs alcohol and nicotine. The new media create a wide range of opportunities to shape life, but there are also consequences for misuse and excessive consumption. Most people are surrounded on a daily basis by sugar, the Internet, computers, but also by people consuming tobacco or alcohol in the supermarket or at a meeting place after work.

The potential for addiction increases with stress and personal difficulties, which is why more and more information centers are pointing out the responsibility of politics and the media. The declining numbers of tobacco and alcohol consumption among young people, even if only small in some cases, show that education and social discussions can help.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.