Is Soda Addictive?


Emily Eslao

The way our brains respond to sugar may contribute to an addiction to the fizzy drink.

Sharon Sun, Photojournalist

In some big retail stores like Walmart or Target, a customer on the end-of-the-journey trip to the cashier stand never fails to miss the packed soda refrigerator by the conveyor belt. In most fast-food restaurants, colorful soda fountains, often offering free refills, are almost always a given. Likewise, most restaurants provide sodas as options on their menus as well. Soda is certainly very commonplace in modern American dining, and it has been acknowledged many times that the beverage’s high saturation of sugar does not offer the healthiest content for our bodies. But perhaps more subtly, as the sugar concentration takes the center stage over the soda debate, what if soda had another negative effect on our bodies? Could soda be addictive?

First of all, what is addiction? According to, addiction is a “mental and physiological disorder characterized by the continued use of a substance even though it affects you negatively.” In the case of soda, maintains, some of the beverage’s key ingredients — caffeine, sodium, and sugar — have the potential to be addictive substances as they create a unique taste that can easily lead to dependence upon a particular drink. Tejas Niroola (11) shares his thoughts on the effect of sugar on addiction to soda. “I do believe that because of the sugar concentration it can be addictive, depending on the soda,” he says. “it really depends on personal preference; some people might love the sweetness while others might dislike it strongly.”

In particular, the sugar content releases dopamine, a hormone that causes feelings of pleasure, in the brain. The role of sugar in releasing dopamine helps contribute to a desire or craving for sugar, and once cravings turn into a dependency, that “sweet tooth” becomes an addiction, paving the way for numerous physical and mental health issues: unwanted weight gain, type 2 diabetes, dental rot, heart disease, and fatty liver disease, according to the Wexner Medical Center.

Like addictions to other substances, soda dependency can also cause symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms happen when an addict does not have his or her addictive substance and begins to experience negative symptoms — such as headaches, irritability, depression, and grogginess — from a prolonged stop in usage.

Furthermore, similarly to addictions to other substances, recommends two methods in breaking soda dependency: quitting cold turkey or weaning off the drink. Quitting cold turkey means to cut all consumption of the substance at once, which helps to speed up the recovery but can leave the addict prone to severe withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, steadily reducing soda intake each day may prolong the recovery process; however, it helps in managing or avoiding possible withdrawal symptoms. 

Ultimately, while the sugar content in soda certainly serves to make having the drink an enjoyable experience for some, it can also prove to be a double-edged sword as it is the pleasant sensation of having sugar that contributes so highly to soda addiction.