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Cheese and Heroin: Totally Different

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Cheese is often named as one of the biggest problem people have with making the change over to veganism. Taste trumps compassion for a number of people, and lately, addiction has been a popular excuse for consumers to keep purchasing. With headlines such as “Cheese Has the Same Effect on Your Brain as Heroin,” and “Cheese Really is Crack,” I’ve been waiting to see throngs of people in the streets and in my city going through the painful process of drug addiction due to gouda. So far I haven’t, and it’s probably because cheese addiction is not at all the same as serious drug addiction.

The “science” behind these claims cite casein, a property of dairy that is concentrated in cheese, as the culprit. While casein can set off pleasure centers in the brain, cheese is also high in sugars and fat which are ingredients that people also crave. Craving, wanting, and liking something is certainly different than having a debilitating addiction, and the studies say a lot about the way we about the way we treat food and overeating in North America. While binge eating disorders are a very real disease, singling out cheese simply for being cheese just isn’t all that responsible. In reality, the science behind wanting cheese and needing a high are two incomparable things. According to Peter Kalivas, a neuroscientist at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, “Addictive drugs do things that food doesn’t do that make them more addictive; to put [those foods] on par with something like cocaine is pretty inflammatory.”

Drug addiction is never a personal problem, as it can drag entire communities down the drain, which is why getting Drug addiction treatment that works is so important for communities. Reaching out for support, whether you are an addict or acting on behalf of a loved one, is the first, and most crucial, step on the road to recovery. People have overcome their addictions using the support and treatment from places like DayHab.com.au. In the time I spent working in a public charter school in DC, I continued to see the effects of the crack cocaine crisis that so many people think ended decades ago. Families are hurting and children have had their childhoods damaged because of serious drug addiction. Just because a specific individual goes through something like opiate withdrawal symptoms, this doesn’t just affect them, but everyone around them too. Watching anyone go through this is never a nice sight. The District’s homeless population is also out of control, with many individuals suffering under a system that doesn’t know how to treat addiction with compassion. I’ve never heard of someone’s phony cheddar “addiction” driving them to lose their homes or family. Port states such as Massachusetts suffer massive numbers of death due to out-of-control heroin imports. One town in New Jersey had twenty five times the amount of heroin-related deaths than the US national average. Making the relation between this dangerous phenomenon and cheese cravings of all things, strike me as tactless and ludicrous. I have a thick skin (most vegans have to), but there’s something that makes me shift uncomfortably in my seat whenever I read another sensationalist article making a wonky connection to having a hard drug problem.

If you’re a vegan, it’s high likely that you find cheese to be a pretty repulsive product, and the “cheese is a drug” school of thought certainly isn’t doing the movement any favors. A brief craving might be the last little bit of discomfort you have after cutting out dairy, (absolutely nothing compared to the hell that the cow went through) but I can’t think of a single person who has experienced withdrawal. Seriously, having an argument about cheese with someone who casually drops “but it’s just as addictive as black tar heroin” is one of the most annoying conversations I remember having in recent memory. It shuts down our point using poor reporting, misinterpreted studies, and shoddy science, something vegans are used to at this point, but frustrated by nonetheless.

If your appetite for cheese is strong, there’s a world of non-dairy cheeses out there waiting for you. If you’re feeling creative, you can get fancy in the kitchen and save money by making your own cashew cheeses. I promise, not a single one of these products is going to even approach stacking up to the level of need and pain that drug addiction causes. The best part? Your food will not involve putting cows and their calves through the pain, use, and exploitation that the industry relies on to keep producing cheese.

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