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Eating ourselves to death: How food is a drug and what food abuse costs

Donuts, chips and burgers


Matthew Robinson 


July 18, 2022


The objective of this paper is to examine definitions of the terms “drug,” “drug use, “drug abuse,” and “addiction” to determine if the most commonly consumed foods in America are similar or consistent with drug use, abuse, and addiction. The methodology consists of reviewing published studies in the “food addiction” literature to determine if any consensus on the issue is achieved. Further, the author analyzes research on harms (including illness, death, medical costs and productivity losses) of illicit drugs, licit drugs, and foods. The author finds evidence that some food consumption is consistent with drug use and drug abuse, and that food addiction is real. Further, the harms caused by the unhealthy foods we eat dwarf those caused by crime and illegal drugs combined. Based on the data, the author suggests we reprioritize what we believe to be dangerous and “criminal” as well as rethink the “war on drugs.”

This research was published in the Drug Science, Policy and Law Journal the definitive source of evidence-based information and comment for academics, scientists, policymakers, frontline workers and the general public on drugs and related issues.

For open-access to the full report of this research, see below:

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