What Is a Soda Addiction?

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What Is a Soda Addiction?

Do you often find yourself craving a soda? Does your meal feel incomplete without a soda to wash it down? Do you drink soda every day, sometimes more than once a day? If so, it’s possible you may have a soda addiction.

Addiction is defined as physical or psychological dependence on a substance.

A soda addiction refers to an individual’s perceived need to consume large amounts of soda, says Marney White, PhD, MS, a clinical psychologist at Yale Medicine who specializes in eating and weight disorders.

Dr. White specifies that while a soda addiction isn’t a formal health condition, people can develop an addiction to caffeine, consumed through soda, or they can develop an addictive response to the sugar in soda.

This article explores the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of soda addiction, as well as the impact of excess soda consumption on your health.

Signs of Soda Addiction

According to Dr. White, some of the signs and symptoms of a soda addiction may be similar to the symptoms of an alcohol or drug addiction. While you may not experience intoxication or altered consciousness, she says you may have symptoms such as:

  • Cravings: You may experience persistent cravings for soda that are difficult to resist.
  • Lack of control: You may have impaired control over your soda consumption. For instance, you may consume soda in larger amounts than you originally intended.
  • Tolerance: You may develop a tolerance to soda, so you may feel the need to consume more and more soda to achieve the desired effect.
  • Withdrawal: You may experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and difficulty concentrating, or physical symptoms such as headaches and tremors, if you’re unable to satisfy your soda cravings.

Causes of Soda Addiction

"As with any addiction, the causes begin with using the substance and developing a physical or psychological need to consume more," says Dr. White.

These are some of the potential causes of a soda addiction:

  • Addictive ingredients: Soda contains ingredients like caffeine and sugar that can be addictive. For instance, much like addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs, caffeine also triggers the release of the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain, making you crave more of it.
  • Lifestyle habits: You may associate soda with certain meals, like fast food or take out, and the meal may feel incomplete unless you have a soda.
  • Personal preferences: You may enjoy the fizzy, tangy taste of aerated beverages, and make it a habit to choose them over water or other options.

Impact of a Soda Addiction

A soda addiction is harmful because soda consumption has been linked to several serious health conditions, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Eating disorders
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Kidney stones
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Stroke
  • Tooth decay

For instance, a 2013 study found that those who drink soda regularly are overweight compared to those who don't. A 2012 study found that greater consumption of soda is linked to a higher risk of stroke. Another 2013 study notes that soda consumption is linked to the formation of kidney stones.

How to Drink Less Soda

If you think you consume too much soda or that you might have a soda addiction, it’s a good idea to try and reduce your consumption. These are some tips that can help you reduce your soda intake:

  • Choose your approach: You can give up soda all at once, or, if you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms, do it gradually. For instance, Dr. White says you can gradually reduce the number of sodas you consume in a day. It can be helpful to set goals such as two sodas per day this week; one soda per day next week; half a soda per day the week after, and so on.
  • Try healthier alternatives: Dr. White recommends replacing soda with a healthier alternative, such as seltzer water. Look for unsweetened options that don’t have any added sugar or sugar substitutes. You can also try drinking still or sparkling water flavored with fruit.
  • Drink plenty of water: You should make a pact with yourself to drink at least as much water as you do soda, every time you drink a soda. So, if you're drinking one ounce of soda, you should drink at least one ounce of water along with it. Water can help quench your thirst and fill you up, and you may find that you don’t need as much soda as you thought you did.

Diagnosing a Soda Addiction

If you’ve tried to reduce your soda intake but haven’t been successful, it may be helpful to see a mental health professional.

Soda addiction is not a formal diagnosis; however, in recent years, researchers have been investigating the concept of food addiction, says Dr. White. 

Your healthcare provider will probably ask you about your soda consumption habits, your lifestyle, your symptoms, and your family history, and try and determine its cause. If required, they may ask you to do other screening tests and exams as well.

Treatment for Soda Addiction

“Since soda addiction is not really a disorder, there is no formal treatment. However, in general, people struggling with food addictions tend to respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT),” says Dr. White.

CBT is very effective in helping people modify problematic behaviors, including binge eating, various forms of addiction, and other compulsive behaviors, Dr. White explains. CBT can help target the problematic thought patterns that lead to unhealthy behaviors such as drinking soda. 

A Word From Verywell

Soda, with its combination of caffeine and sugar, can hit just the right spot. However, research has linked soda consumption to a number of serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Soda can also be addictive, making you crave more and impairing your ability to control your consumption. 

If you consume a lot of soda, you can take steps to reduce your consumption on your own. If you’ve tried and are unable to do so, it may be helpful to see a therapist.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.