Seen At 11: Experts Say Soda Can Be As Addictive As Cocaine

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City is waging war against soda — citing growing evidence that it causes a variety of health problems from increased risk of stroke, heart attack and diabetes.

But CBS2’s Alice Gainer reports that experts say if you’re hooked, quitting may be a lot easier said than done.

Headaches, nausea, shaky hands — they’re common symptoms of withdrawal — even if it’s just from going without soda.

“I just went cold turkey — it felt like hell,” said dietitian and nutritionist Elisa Zied. But she isn’t talking about giving up cigarettes or booze.

“I was used to having my daily fix,” Zied said.

She’s talking about diet soda.

“Cutting out my soda was really psychologically and physically difficult,” Zied said. “Just because your kids are active doesn’t mean sugary drinks aren’t doing damage to their insides.”

“It’s hands down, incredibly addictive,” said nutritionist Stephanie Middleberg.

It’s also hands down the most popular drink in the country with an average of 45 gallons of soda consumed per person, per year.

“If I don’t have a dark soda once a day, I get a really bad headache,” Middleberg said. “More so than coffee or anything else along those lines.”

Middleberg said many of the ingredients in soda can affect the chemistry in the brain.

“In terms of the additives that they put into it — artificial sweeteners,  the acids and the caffeine,” Middleberg said.

Not to mention all that sugar which, according to the National Institute of Health, may be as addictive as cocaine.

So when soda drinkers stop consuming these ingredients that their brains have become so accustomed to, Middleberg says they may experience symptoms of withdrawal.

“Low energy, shaking, headaches, nausea — they could be in a fog,” Middleberg said.

“My suggestion for people who want to cut back or eliminate it from their diet, they should do it slowly and gradually,” Zied offered.

And not cold turkey.

Zied also recommends drinking a cup of water before having a soda so you’ll consume less. She says one soda a day isn’t so bad, but if you cut it out for 24 hours and feel the effects, you know you’re addicted.

“Look for alternatives — it could be unsweetened ice tea, seltzer or club soda with a splash of fruit juice,” Zied said.

Scientists at the University of California are now studying the addictiveness of soda and its withdrawal symptoms in teens.

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