Addiction Oddities

Addiction seems to be a very difficult subject about which to generalize. Or maybe it is too easy to generalize about, and the holdup lies in the unlikelihood of reaching an agreement on any particular generalization. A lot of things don’t quite line up. For instance, Dr. Pretlow has written, “The mechanism of action is theorized to be inhibition of the brain’s reward mechanism. Yet, nail biting doesn’t really involve the reward mechanism.”

Or does it? If the person feels that there is something existentially offensive about that segment of fingernail, then once it has been removed, surely satisfaction is felt? In most cases, to eliminate a pesky annoyance can be quite rewarding. Because humans are so complicated, the whole concept of reward might stray into strange territory. Staff writer for The Atlantic Sarah Zhang wrote,

In particular, GLP-1 analogs affect dopamine pathways in the brain, a.k.a. the reward circuitry. This pathway evolved to help us survive; simplistically, food and sex trigger a dopamine hit in the brain… In people with addiction, this process in the brain shifts as a consequence or cause of their addiction, or perhaps even both.

Consider opioid dependency, which usually leads to a diminished sex drive and a raised probability of people lying to their partners about why they are not in the mood. Where does this leave the traditional concept of sex as one of the most irresistible rewards?

The individual and the forces

After searching eight databases and coming up with seven suitable English-language studies published as recently as last month, researchers have undertaken a brand new multi-author meta-analysis of information on personality traits associated with childhood obesity.

Despite multifaceted attempts to prevent and impact the problem, “the overall progress of childhood obesity interventions has been far from satisfactory.” Childhood obesity continues to rise in countries with low, middle, and high-income levels among their residents. Meanwhile, adult studies show that the influence of personality traits on obesity counts even more than the influence of socioeconomic factors.

The authors say,

One critical reason is that most of the existing interventions only focused on the proximal factors of obesity such as behaviors, but paid little attention to the rooted drivers motivating behavioral changes such as personality traits.

Studies in the adult population have shown that the influence of personality traits on obesity was even greater than that of socioeconomic factors and the FTO gene.

The Five-Factor model posits five dimensions of personality traits, namely extraversion,
agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and conscientiousness. Together, these are said to
“reflect a person’s inherent patterns of cognition, attitude, emotion, self-regulation or coping strategies and have been shown to be related to multiple health-related behaviors.”

As it turns out, the only trait that merited attention in this context was conscientiousness, “the tendency to be self-controlled, perseverant, and disciplined to social norms” — and the association is a negative one. In other words, children who score low on that quality have more of a tendency to be obese. According to the study results,

A growing body of evidence has revealed an association between personality traits and obesity, but the findings regarding this association among children remain mixed. Causal associations of personality traits with the risk of childhood obesity remain to be clarified in future studies.

No consistent patterns were found in the associations between the other 4 dimensions of personality traits and BMI/obesity in children.

It is hoped that digging into this subject will throw some light on the effect that the new drugs might have on younger users. Not much is there yet, but it is definitely the sort of thing that needs to be looked into, before blithely authorizing the prescription of the -tide drugs to kids.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Did Scientists Accidentally Invent an Anti-addiction Drug?,”, 05/19/23
Source: “The association of personality traits with childhood obesity: A systematic review and meta-analysis,”, November 2023
Image by Michael Nuccitelli/Public Domain

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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