An associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan has indicated that the effects people experience trying to give up Diet Coke are very similar to classic signs of addiction. Individuals know it’s not good for them but will drink it anyway and experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. Headaches, irritability, anxiety and nausea are just a few examples. What is it about Diet Coke that causes this behavior?
The key ingredients that may make Diet Coke hard to quit are caffeine and aspartame.
According to the Addiction Center, caffeine is a stimulant that has the ability to increase
metabolism, enhance concentration and boost mood. Humans can quickly
become addicted to the dopamine surge that comes from consuming caffeine
and can subsequently experience withdrawal when it’s taken away. Per Coca-Cola, a 12-ounce can of Diet Coke contains 46 milligrams of caffeine where a 12-ounce can of regular Coke contains only 34 milligrams.
Additionally, studies have shown that artificial sweeteners activate the brain’s reward system about half as much as sugar, leaving people wanting more. A study conducted in 2007 with lab rats that were forced to choose between saccharin and cocaine resulted in rats choosing artificial sweeteners over cocaine 94% of the time.
Addiction psychiatrist Dr. Harold C. Urschel indicates that another cause of Diet Coke addiction may be psychological. If your Diet Coke consumption is tied to a habit, like stopping at the gas station to get gas, you condition yourself to start craving a soda before you pull into the station. Or maybe you have a Diet Coke first thing in the morning before you start your day. It can become a comforting part of your routine.
Whatever the cause, Diet Coke can be a hard beverage to give up, even though we know it’s not great for our bodies. If you want to cut back, try weaning off the drink instead of stopping cold turkey to help with the caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Try to find a replacement. If it’s the cold fizzy drink you like, give sparkling water a shot. If you reach for a soda to beat the afternoon slump, try getting up and going for a walk to energize yourself.