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Jamie Oliver Claims to be Addicted to Chilli

Media stories are reporting that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is claiming that he is addicted to chilli. This might sound like an odd assertion until we consider that there is some research that suggests that there are chemicals inside chillies that trigger the brain to release endorphins. Jamie Oliver has suggested that chilli is the nearest thing you can get to natural morphine, and that he feels ill in the morning until he has his first chilli of the day. These claims are not being fully endorsed by the scientists though, as there is not enough evidence to suggest that eating chilli has an impact on mood and behaviour. This news story has triggered a good deal of debate about what should be considered addiction and what should not.

Is Jamie Oliver Addicted to Chilli?

So what should we make of Jamie Oliver’s claim that he is addicted to chilli? The problem is that there is no real agreement about what is meant by the word “addiction.” It has become so overused by people that it has lost much of its meaning – even the dictionary definitions of addiction can be confusing. Some people will use the word addiction to refer to anything they like doing a lot – so a person might claim that they are addicted to football just because they like to follow their favourite team. Is this really what we mean by addiction though? Surely this is much different from a person who is damaging their mind and body because they cannot stop using alcohol or drugs.

One of the easiest ways to define addiction would be to say that it means that we continue with a behaviour even though it is obviously causing us harm. Under this definition then, Jamie Oliver’s love for chilli would need to be having a negative impact on his life for him to be considered an addict, but this does not seem to be the case here. In the media reports, he is only reporting positive effects. Of course, it could be that Mr Oliver is in denial and that his chilli obsession is causing him problems, but he is just not admitting to this. It would be hard to make such a judgement without knowing him very well.

A more technical way of defining addiction would be to say that it involves physical and psychological dependence. Physical dependence refers to a situation where people will develop tolerance (the person needs to keep on taking more to get the same effect) for a substance and begin to have withdrawals (unpleasant physical symptoms) should they stop taking it. Psychological dependence means that the person experiences cravings for the substance and that they feel unable to cope without out. Jamie Oliver is reported to have said that he feels ill until he has his first chilli in the morning, so this might suggest some type of dependence on this substance.

Is Addiction to Chilli Possible?

It seems reasonable to claim that people could develop a psychological addiction to something like chilli, but there is no evidence to suggest that it does change mood and behaviour. There is also not enough evidence yet to support any type of physical addiction is possible. Of course, this could be because there is not enough research conducted into this possibility – we need to keep in mind that lack of evidence does not mean that a claim should be disqualified.  The claims though, that research has already provided evidence for the addictive potential of chilli does seem to be overstated by some people.

It would be wrong to dismiss Jamie Oliver’s claims of addiction to chilli. There is no doubt that eating disorders and food addictions can cause untold misery and suffering but only he can say if he falls into this category. If his of chilli is making having a negative impact on his life then this is certainly something that he will want to stop doing it. If giving up the behaviour is proving problematic then this will be a sign of needing addiction treatment.

If you are concerned that you might have an addiction to any substance or behaviour, you can contact our team here for advice.

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