Rates of obesity and obesity-associated diseases have increased dramatically in countries with developed economies. Substance use disorders (SUDs) are characterized by the persistent use of the substance despite negative consequences. It has been hypothesized that overconsumption of palatable energy dense food can elicit SUD-like maladaptive behaviors that contribute to persistent caloric intake beyond homeostatic need even in the face of negative consequences. Palatable food and drugs of abuse act on many of the same motivation-related circuits in the brain, and can induce, at least superficially, similar molecular, cellular, and physiological adaptations on these circuits. As such, applying knowledge about the neurobiological mechanisms of SUDs may serve as useful heuristic to better understand the persistent overconsumption of palatable food that contributes to obesity. However, many important differences exist between the actions of drugs of abuse and palatable food in the brain. This warrants caution when attributing weight gain and obesity to the manifestation of a putative SUD-related behavioral disorder. Here, we describe similarities and differences between compulsive drug use in SUDs and overconsumption in obesity and consider the merit of the concept of “food addiction”.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110580
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
StatePublished - 30 Aug 2022


  • Addiction
  • Motivation
  • Obesity


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