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Can Spicy food be addicting?

Recently, I found a new local Mexican restaurant that is pretty authentic from what I can gather. (never had real Mexican but the place is filled with locals who are mexican)

I am enjoying trying all the new and unknown items, this sure isn't Chevy's! First and foremost is the spiciness! I've had good spicy in Thai, Cajun, Indian and a few other cuisines and thought I was pretty good on it. But this food such kicks it up a few level. My first taste usually seems to cause a beaded sweat and almost a panic saying "I'll die if I eat this ." Then a second taste and more, Yum, the various dishes are very complex in the chili sauces. I am now having lunch there 2-3 times a week, to try more items and learn the cuisine and also because I now seem to crave, yes, actually crave that heat.

Anyone else find this so? Is it the flavor or the rush of the spicy?

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  1. I think just about any flavor profile (sweet, salty, spicy heat, etc.) can be addicting.

    It's (shudder) human nature.

    1. Consuming capsaicin leads to the release of endorphins. e.g. http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/04...

      3 Replies
      1. re: MGZ

        I was wondering about that! And it seems some great side benefits, health -wise as well.

        MGZ if ya wanna venture south and have lunch at that place, let me know. Be fun ti get a CH gather.

        1. re: Quine

          Just be careful with that stuff. Luckily, there's a 12 step meeting for chilihaulics. Last week, I finally admitted my powerlessness and how I knew I was "at bottom" when I started eating watermelon chunks with embedded jalepeno slices and making breakfast out of dried fruit splashed with Mo' Betta's Fire Roasted Habanero Sauce.

          1. re: MGZ

            *laughing* I will keep that in mind. *knowing that I have take out for dinner of the Hottest dish I tasted from that place ready*

            maybe this is one of those "it's the journey not the destination" type of things?

      2. In my experience, super hot (and that's not the same thing as spicy) food enlivens the taste buds, makes them more sensitive, and thus more alive to various flavors. Put another way, food just tastes better after having eaten something extremely hot. Now scientifically speaking, this may not be the same thing as an addiction, but it certainly makes one want to eat more of the stuff.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Perilagu Khan

          But there is the case of super tasters- vs. non super tasters. Some recoil from flavor & spice or heat overload.

            1. re: Phurstluv

              Capsaicin stimulates the heat receptors and has little or no effect on the tastebuds. Supertasters are more affected by strong flavors, especially bitterness that many others either don't notice or actually enjoy.

          1. All I can say is that it was a long path for me to even like spicy food. Now I love it to the point where, when eating particular cuisines that are known for their spice level (or even if they just fit the flavor profile for me, i.e. "Asian" -- and yes, I know that's a pretty broad stroke here), it HAS to be spicy. Sichuan, Thai, Mexican... if it's not hot, I am missing something. Fiercely.

            Not the unhealthiest addiction in my life, I might add, if painful at times '-)

            1. Surely you jest! Three bites into my first hot Indian chicken curry many years ago, and I've never looked back since. Come hither, ye jalapeno temptresses! :)

              1. i also think any flavors could be addicting.
                but hot peppers lovers only eat spicy foods and seems like they are escalating the habit. (why you want pain? small pain is good but why big pinch of pain?
                and because of that they do not appreciate other kinds of food saying it is so blunt, which is sad.

                well, this might sound a bit off topic but psychologically or spiritually speaking, those who seek spicy foods are lacking some excitement in their life. or maybe they find their life are not exciting enough...that's what i read anyway....have you ever heard of something like this or is it just a myth?

                5 Replies
                1. re: yumyumyumyum

                  Displacement, I think? For some, I am sure this rings true. I live with a thrill-seeker. I would rather eat a plate of food that makes me sweat and cling to a bottle of beer as a buoy than climb a mountain. I like spicy food; I don't like heights. He loves heights, crazy stunts, anything 'new', and, also, spicy food. He was also the guy who told me not to eat the 'little red chile' that was in my Singapore noodles. Really? Because they're *delicious*, like a spicy dish door-prize. He thinks the ocean is scary, but I would love to get him in a kayak (it's all about balance, and flexibility). I mostly think that food is no less psychological than anything else we do, or don't do, or wear, or don't wear, or say . . . only I wonder if my taste buds know that.

                  I really should call my mother. It's been a while . . . .

                  (That was a joke.)

                  1. re: onceadaylily

                    Oh, my wouldn't we and our SOs get along.

                    I am right with you, until the part about the Singapore chiles - no I won't eat them my DH loves them, along with jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, etc...... I don't have thrill issues and am a tad acrophobic. May climb a mountain, but don't ask me to jump or climb into a ferris wheel (HATE those!!). But then again, I did have trouble when DH drove us up a skinny road along LA that takes you to the "Rim of the World". Yup, I lost it!! But if I'm prepared, I can do okay!! (What a wimp!!)

                    1. re: Phurstluv

                      I hate the skinny roads, but love ferris wheels (thrill under supervision). We could have a perfectly balanced vacation. Shared defense mechanisms can help us make good friends, right?. Just don't go all reaction formation if you don't like my cooking.

                      1. re: onceadaylily

                        Oh sweetie, that's just not possible - I'm fine for cooking - it's the death defying feats I'm not into ;)) I'm sure I'd love whatever you cooked!!

                  2. re: yumyumyumyum

                    It may well be quite the opposite of what you suggest. Rather than lack excitement in life, chiliheads may have it in superabundance. Hence, we get as many thrills as we can, in any way we can. Now that can be a good thing, but it can also be self-destructive.

                    And I can't speak for other chiliheads, but there certainly are some bland foods that I still love: chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes and gravy, asparagus, broccoli, apples, cheese, etc.

                  3. Well, people in recovery from long-term substance addictions may crave the sensory intensity of chillies as a substitute.

                    1. It is a common fact that spicy foods kick in the endorphins, which do cause a rush of good to exhilirating feelings, upon which the brain can "technically' get addicted to. Like a "runners high".

                      1. This depends on your definition of addiction. This post reminds me of Tiger Woods' claim that he is addicted to sex. Some think the word addiction is being abused, while others believe addicition simply means a strong dependence desire.

                        You can develop craving for spicy food and may find other foods bland. Like Phurstluv siad, spicy food releases endorphins and make you happy.

                        That being said, you don't develop a physical dependency on spicy foods. You won't undergo "withdrawal" because you stop eating spicy foods. You won't bang your head against window, have running nose, shrive, develop a fever, cold sweat....

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Or jump off a the nearest hi-rise. But they doooooooo make you feel fine, when you get them going again!!

                          1. re: Phurstluv

                            I meant to say spicy food has a relatively harmless addiction if you can call it an addiction. Jumping of hi-rise seems harmful.

                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            True, you may not have a true "withdrawal" but spicy food seems habit forming, in the sense that once you are accustomed to it, it is very hard to switch long term to bland food.

                            I like bland dishes once in a while, but if I have to eat bland food for more than about 3 days in a row, I get pretty depressed and *really* look for ways to spice things up......

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Agreed. Whether it meets a clinical definition of 'addiction' is doubtful but in my experience, both directly and observationally, just about any human behavior can become 'addicting' to one person or another.

                            2. As noted, the endorphin release issue is certainly a factor in enjoying chiles. Chocolate causes a similar reaction in the brain. Physical exercise, running, swimming, even sex, produces similar results. Ultimately, this shows that the phenomenon is physiological, as well as physical.

                              I think, however, that there is another factor at play here. I think for many hardcore 'hounds, especially those who are flavorphiles, heat as a taste element can provide another level of exploration. Sure, everybody knows the salty, sweet, sour, bitter song, but there is a different dimension of flavor provided by astringents or anticeptics. For me learning to appreciate nuanced tastes from things like chiles, liquor, and tea were later discoveries for which I was very grateful. The complexities of truly tasting such substances allows for much experimentation and excitement . . . .

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: MGZ

                                "Ultimately, this shows that the phenomenon is physiological, as well as physical."

                                That last word should have been "psychological."

                              2. Yes most definitely. It's something I've been trying to break out of.

                                1. not sure about addicting but hurts that's for sure.
                                  last week in my garden where that dang large rodent has been inhabiting, I have peppers growing in there. of course, that's one plant the dang rat won't touch. now I know why. I bit into one, it was small so I thought it was a small growing little green bell pepper that had ripened and turned red but one that doesn't get big. < dumb thing I thought, what do I do with a little tiny red bell pepper that is no bigger than a scotch bonnet or habanero. duh, biting into it, just to see how sweet it was, it wasn't. it was blazing hot.........I came inside to drink milk or suck on yogurt or sour cream or coffee cream or or or..............all I ended up doing for the next hour was putting small pieces of ice in my mouth until the burn came back then another one went it. so....addicting, not sure, blazing your mouth off, yep

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                    Wow, you know if you can reproduce this "fruit" or pepper, and farm it, you can make a million, right?

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Yep. Where can I get aholt of some of that stuff?! It sounds great!

                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                        Being his first customer, I think you should get 50% off. (the beginning of "iL Divo Pepper Inc") ha ha ha

                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                          Here are some chiles I nabbed from a friends garden a few years ago. They were hotter than many habs I've eaten, but had a similar citrusy flavor. The heat took 15 or 20 seconds to develop, and left most folks incapacitated for 5 or 10 minutes...

                                          1. re: equal_Mark

                                            Looks like a fairly close relative of the chiletepin. I'd love to haw into a couple.

                                            1. re: equal_Mark

                                              They look good. So small, must be true the smaller the chili, the hotter.

                                              1. re: equal_Mark

                                                Those look mighty heavy duty, Mark. How did you/would you use them? I thought curry, maybe?

                                        2. Spicy foods are definitely addictive! Once you try it, it's like trying to get an alkie off the sauce (pun intended). I go probably go through a two bottles of Tobasco, a jar of salsa, and a bottle of Vietnamese chili garlic sauce a week! If it doesn't burn your eyes while you're cooking it, it isn't hot enough. ;)