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Chocolate—a drug?

Is chocolate a mind-altering drug? Find out on this Moment of Science.

Little girl with chocolate on her face

Photo: BJTDBÖC (flickr)

Research has shown that chocolate can produce feelings of euphoria and well-being, like with this little girl

Americans consume nearly three billion pounds of chocolate each year, and researchers are now saying this could be due to mind-altering chemicals present in chocolate, similar to those found in marijuana and heroin.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Eating chocolate causes your brain to release pleasure-inducing opiates, just as it would if you used heroin. One study even found that self proclaimed “chocoholics” had fewer cravings when given an opiate blocking drug.

Chocolate also contains a cannabinoid, a drug similar to the cannabis in marijuana, which produces feelings of euphoria and well-being. Other chemicals, that inhibit the breakdown of cannabinoids naturally produced by your brain, prolong this feeling long after chocolate is consumed.

As if the opiate and cannabinoid high aren’t enough, chocolate also contains theobromine, a stimulant similar to caffeine, and phenylethylamine, a chemical thought to be related to the feeling of love.

So as it turns out America’s love for chocolate may in fact have more to do with its mind-altering effects on our brains, than it’s feeling in our stomachs.

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