Painkillers, tobacco, cocaine, alcohol, heroin, fat and inactivity all depend on the binding of a ligand and a receptor. Even our circadian rhythms, depend on six-hour ligands.
Once the ligand is removed from an addicted individual, the corresponding receptors cease being produced and the addiction becomes dormant. When and if the ligand is reintroduced, there is an immediate synthesis of new receptors and the addiction resumes. The result of yo-yo quitting are more powerful than the original addiction and probably more difficult to defeat as well.
Excess weight, and the binges, frequent relapses and depression, which dieters often experience, are the consequence of altering the body's molecular timings.
The bindings that regulate appetite take place in a specialized group of nerves and their receptors in the hypothalamus of the brain. Proper binding regulates appetite and causes normal food intake. Altered bindings prevent satiation receptors from firing and causes over-eating.
Other types of alterations involve receptors that when engaged (bound), don’t repress appetite, they instead cause cells to synthesize and release more receptors like itself. Each one in turn, when bound, will consequently and instantaneously code for more receptors. Left unchecked, this endless cycle that occurs inside the nucleus of nerve cells and will continue to manufacture and transport new receptors to the nerve’s outer membrane where they can wait in anxious anticipation. The need to gratify waiting receptors is a mighty powerful drive.
This is the main reason why food addicts, much as heroin and alcoholics have so much trouble trying to end their addiction. It doesn’t matter if the addiction is to an image, a game, a feeling, or drugs like narcotics, painkillers, sleeping pills, nicotine, and alcohol. The chemical changes that occur here are the same as those involved with food, fat, sugar and exercise.
Narcotics, alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, food, exercise, music, video games, TV, movies, pornography, even sex, can be considered addictive. They all operoate on the same pathways and receptors in the brain.
I theorize that addictions become worse when attempts to rid the body of the addiction fail. The more failures that occurs, the stronger the addiction becomes.
When I smoked cigarettes thirty years ago, I smoked more cigarettes after each time I quit than I did before I quit. This realization made me more much serious about quitting and may have helped me remain a non-smoker to this day.
Smokers, alcoholics, heroin addicts and overeaters share this experience of abusing their addictive drug more after relapses. If ever the adage of putting everything into an effort has meaning it is in beating an addiction.
Once bound, the complex stimulates DNA synthesis of more receptors. This is the molecular explanation for tolerance and dependence of addictive substances.
The most likely phenomena to account for this is receptor recruitment or the formation of new receptors following the re-introduction of the addictive substance. Once a relapse has occurred the newly satisfied receptors stimulate even more receptor production. It is for this reason that I believe it is not a good idea to yo-yo diet, or routinely fall off the wagon or even to quit smoking for a few weeks at a time.
The number of receptors formed after a relapse is probably larger than their number during the original addiction. This may explain why frequent relapses result in stronger and more powerful addictions. For this reason, I recommend not to try to lose weight, quit smoking or stop drinking unless there is a real commitment to do so.