Running Similar To Drug Addiction

Some times last month I read an interesting essay by a Malaysian runner The Running Addiction

The following is the post from his blog. If you have time I recommend you visit his site to read more interesting running stories.

“According to the DSMV, a person must exhibit three of the following five criteria in order to be dependent on a substance: tolerance, withdrawal, unsuccessful efforts to cut down intake of the substance, interference with social, occupational, or recreation activities, and continuation of the substance despite recognition that doing so has caused physical or psychological problems.

Let’s consider running as the “substance”. A distance runner will meet all five criteria:

1) Tolerance – over time a runner must run more (or faster) to produce the same physical effects

2) Withdrawal – a runner becomes VERY grumpy when he has to take some time off

3) Unsuccessful efforts to cut down intake of the substance – a runner who has been advised to cut down his mileage will rarely do so. He must run. He hates the taper.

4) Interferes with social, occupational, or recreational activities – the run becomes one of the number one priorities of the day. And because of the lifestyle choices that accompany running certain recreational activities, such as getting loaded the night before a big run, are not possible.

5) Continuation of the substance despite recognition that doing so has caused physical or psychological problems – a broken bone is the only injury that will stop a runner from running.

Moreover, running satisfies common features of addiction

1)Positive reinforcement – a runner is happy after a run

2)Negative reinforcement – running is a release from ALL PROBLEMS

3)Craving – if a runner is watching other people run, he will want to run
In class it was proposed that whether or not something is considerepostd addicting depends on whether society considers the substance as good or as bad. Drugs are bad so you can be addicted to them. Lobster is not bad, so if you must eat lobster every day it is not an addiction. I don’t buy this good/bad thing. Firstly, I think the lobster example wasn’t that great. I don’t think lobster is addicting, but not because it is considered “good” but because it doesn’t meet the above addiction or dependence criteria. Running is something “good” that does satisfy the above criteria and therefore in my mind it is an addiction.

Thus addiction is not necessarily evil. Of course running would be considered a positive addiction due to the tremendous health benefits, and positive self-esteem. One of the coolest things about running is that everyone can do it.

“If you were dropped on your head as a baby, running is your sport”

And unlike most sports, running truly is about competition with the self with success being measured by to what degree the distance runner enjoys what he is doing and to what degree he is striving to do his best.

As a final note, I would like to say that there is potential for a positive addiction to turn into a negative one, due to the fact that anything addicting has the potential to be all-consuming. The high incidence of disordered eating among women distance runner is a reflection of the desire to run faster, and run longer, as are incidences of overtraining and burnout.”

2 thoughts on “Running Similar To Drug Addiction

  1. mialena

    And (we) runners even do a bit of LSD on a regular basis šŸ™‚
    I get really cranky if I don’t run, other half often sends me out if I’ve not run for a while to get the “normal” me back…

  2. Patrick Binienda

    Interesting article though I think you need to do more research either on running and/or on addiction.
    There are lots of ultramarathoners that are not addicted to running based on the criteria above. Not all distance runners are addicted.
    There is no such thing as a positive addiction. That is an oxymoron like intelligent George W Bush. Sounds cute but the very nature of addiction is that it is a negative dependence. I am dependent on breathing air. I am not addicted to air.
    Due to people overusing the word addiction, it is inappropriately applied to many things people have no understanding about. Since most people don’t run, when nonrunning people see someone put a lot of time and effort into something as difficult as a marathon or longer, an assumption is made that there is something other than desire and discipline happenning. Addiction is an easy explanation but not good one.
    Dig deeper. The DSM criteria was developed for nonaddicts to identify addiction. But they had such are hard time with it because of groups like NA that they backed off the word addiction. You will not find it anywhere in the DSM. They took the safe road and focused on dependence. They also did not get into anything beyond substance dependence.
    Just food for thought (but don’t think about it too much or you might get addicted to your thinking).

    FROM CONSTANTINE : Thanks for your clarification.

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