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WASHINGTON — It’s not uncommon for many who are recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction to become hooked on another substance: sugar.

Dr. Pamela Peeke, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of “The Hunger Fix,” says drugs alter the brain’s dopamine receptors — the neurochemicals responsible for detecting pleasure — and it takes a while for the altered receptors to get back to normal.

To obtain the same high once achieved by drugs, many turn to sugar to stimulate the receptors.

“When you’re detoxing and going into recovery and coming off that stuff, your brain still wants to get right on back up there again,” Peeke says.

During the initial recovery time, Peeke says former addicts are susceptible to transfer addictions.

“One of the most common things, especially to people who have been on stimulants, for instance, like cocaine, methamphetamine, Adderall … and also alcohol, is to go directly to sugar,” she says. “Sugar definitely causes the same kind of issue in the rewards center.”

However, becoming addicted to sugar can cause its own health problems. A food addiction can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

For one out of every five people, Peeke says sugar is “as addictive, if not more addictive, than cocaine and morphine.”

So how can those trying to recover from drug or alcohol addiction steer clear of a food addiction? Peeke says to “duke it out in the rewards center.” She suggests replacing junk food with hearty, delicious and healthier options. “There’s tons of food out there that will work just as well,” she says.

Some treatment centers have recently started to overhaul their meal plans to include more healthy, balanced foods and fewer sweets, The New York Times reports.

Adding physical activity is another way to take the mind off sugar and keep a recovering body healthy.

“It’s an integrative approach; that’s the way to do it,” she says.

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