Cocaine and Chocolate, kissing cousins?
Cocaine and Chocolate, kissing cousins?
When I was in my twenties and partying on the London scene I would take drugs for ‘recreational’ socialising purposes.
Whilst indulging on one particular social occasion that was fuelled by cocaine I remember thinking that we couldn't escape the fact that because of our hedonism, someone in South America was being abused, in fact the whole supply chain of that mirror lined with cocaine was abusive. I was responsible, as I was the end user, for creating the demand that starts its life with drug barons murdering to protect their patch.
Similarly, chocolate has a dark side, and not just the delicious 80% cocoa! The use of illegal labour in children tending to crops is well known and has led to the rise of fair trade chocolate so we can satisfy our itch with good conscience. BBC Panorama informed a chocolate Easter egg eating British public that ‘much of the chocolate sold in the UK – more than half a million tonnes a year – revealed evidence of human trafficking and child slave labour.’ [i]. Which made for a more uncomfortable egg hunt.
Ethical labelling can give us a false sense that chocolate is okay, combined with the deliberately timed releases by the media at Easter and Christmas of research revealing that chocolate is actually good for us. It is never a better time to investigate who and what backed the research into this drug of choice – and it is a drug; consumption of chocolate changes our biochemistry.
There are the more obvious addictive qualities of both chocolate and cocaine:
The same part of the brain is affected: the release of dopamine, which triggers a rush of feel good chemicals and stimulates a continued search for another shot of that feeling. This is the same part of us that if left to run rampant, knows no limit and has no off switch. It is the same desire to have it NOW. Once it is consumed you feel an intense raciness due to the sugar and stimulating qualities, whilst also getting an opioid-like high similar to ‘ecstasy, morphine and marijuana – chocolate has the same compound make up’ [ii]
The same addictive quality of needing more and more to get to the same state of euphoria once easily reached, but now needing several rows of chocolate or several lines of cocaine
Both are manufactured under extreme circumstances. Cocoa beans, after being left to rot in the sun, then have a ton of sugar added to them to take away the bitter taste – plus emulsifiers, milk powders and other chemicals. Cocaine has toxic chemicals used in the processing of it, including the common practice of soaking the coca leaves in gasoline. Add to this that you have no idea what has been added along the way to the bag of drugs you are buying.
One of these we can buy at the supermarket counter where it is in plain view, indeed targeted so you will impulsively buy it, is classed as a food, and has society's approval as an acceptable drug to use. The other we know as a class A narcotic you have to buy cloak and dagger style in some back street from decidedly unsavoury characters, much the same character as corporate giants trying to satisfy their shareholders... one just wears a suit!
In fact the only point of real difference is that chocolate tastes really good and cocaine tastes horrible.
But what is exactly the same in both is that the consumer of both chocolate and cocaine uses their substance of choice to feel that they are fulfilling something in themselves.
In a cocaine addict you can see that they are a mess and they are trying to manage their lives through the use of the drug – there is no hiding that. However, with chocolate/sugar addict the symptoms are less obvious: tiredness, sallow skin, being overweight, grumpy, moody, etc. We tend to not notice this because there are so many who are suffering the same symptoms we don’t connect them with the drug being used. This is because eating chocolate is so acceptable and because so many actively encourage the continuing use of the stuff. And one of the defining characteristics of being an addict is not wanting to lose a fellow addict to abstinence.
So, why is addiction to chocolate not treated the same way as addiction to cocaine?
Maybe it is not as headline grabbing, maybe because chocolate is a billion dollar industry, but there are far more people out there who would (proudly I might add) call themselves ‘chocoholics’ than who would eagerly proclaim themselves ‘coke-heads’. Why is an addiction to chocolate socially acceptable, even in jest? Maybe it is because chocolate is a socially acceptable way for us to deal with events or periods of life that do not feel so great. Advertising for chocolate is littered with associations with the notion of ‘escape’, ‘me-time’, ‘indulgence’, etc. – all things that we associate with ‘feeling better than I do now’.
This idea of ‘feeling better’ is the same reason that any drug user will give you for why they use drugs. Drugs make them feel better momentarily, but the only reason that they feel better is because they did not feel so great in the first place.
Is chocolate truly different? Or is it just another way of trying to make ourselves feel better to momentarily escape the hurt, lonely, empty feelings we all have?
The underlying core issue of why we consume a drug is because we are hurt, mostly from not being loved for who we are and truly met by someone loving us who loves themselves.
That may sound a bit grand, but look around you: who feels amazing when you look at them – really amazing with a sparkle in their eyes and a real openness to connecting to everyone? Not many people at all.
This isn’t a blame game, it is a reality check on where the current baseline is for us as a humanity. We are all hurt in one way or another, and there is a deeper pain we are trying to not feel.
It is no surprise that we don’t feel great and often can feel angry, sad, or just empty like there is nothing worth caring about. When we reach for the bar of delicious tasting chocolate, for one sweet moment that tension is gone – in that moment you feel good, your body fills with endorphins and you feel less tension. Until you come down again and start hating yourself for eating it, the tension comes back and the itch and the cycle starts all over again...
Chocolate and cocaine make one racy and therefore take us away from who we truly are; being racy means we are less able to read situations around us and so we become less. Why choose to be less?