A few questions

I’ve been thinking about some issues in regards to diabetes for a while. I consider diabetics to be drug addicts. I don’t see this in a negative way. I embrace the notion.

The other thing is that I consider diabetes to be an eating disorder. I believe most of our views on food can't help but be tainted. To many cultures food is sacred. Diabetes in itself is a culture and I think a bad perception of food comes with it. I'm wondering what other diabetics think on these issues. Also, if you could leave what type of diabetes you have, that'd be great.


Frank the Prank

Hmmmm. I am T1 and definitely do not think of myself as a drug addict. Maybe more of a natural hormone addict:) I wouldn’t go into withdrawal if I did not have it, just die.

While I think D may foster obsessive and compulsive behaviors, and both D and eating disorders may be related to aspects of having “control” I do not think of it as an eating disorder because essential to eating disorders is distorted body image. I see EDs as having an issue with self rather than with food per se. I do think that having D may place people at increased risk for developing psychologically unhealthy issues with food and possibly diagnose-able eating disorders. I know diabulimia is common in teenage girls taking insulin, but haven’t seen any literature on the rate of eating disorders in diabetics versus the normal population.

Type 1. I never thought of injecting insulin as being a drug addict. It’s like air, food, water that I need to continue to live. No choice involved. I don’t think of myself as being addicted to breathing:)

Food is far more than sustenance & carries powerful emotions, behaviors & meaning. I’ve often thought about your second question & how diabetes can cause food obsession. Whether it’s what we can/should eat, what we can’t/don’t eat, its physical effects, counting carbs, taking meds or insulin & testing, food takes on a different role in our lives. Throw in the incorrect stigma that diabetics have caused their disease by their eating habits, & it’s a formula for emotional imbalance.

Interesting questions, Frank. I feel well qualified to respond to these questions, being a Type 1 (LADA) diabetic and also having had drug abuse issues in my past as well as sixteen years recovery from an eating disorder. First of all drug addiction? Not even close. Addiction is about a lot more than the physiological need for a drug; it’s about attitudes, emotions and behavior, none of which we experience in regards to insulin. As for eating disorders, I absolutely agree with Judith and Cat that we do sometimes develop obsessive and compulsive relationships to food, and that control is an issue for diabetics. But just like for someone recovering from an eating disorder can reframe their relationship to food, so can a diabetic develop a healthy attitude to food while still eating in a positive way for a diabetic. One of the things I learned in recovering from an eating disorder was to enjoy my food. When I was diagnosed with diabetes I felt like I would have to go back to obsessing about food in the unhealthy way I had gotten past after my recovery from my eating disorder. And for a while I did. But now I have learned what I can eat, found a level of carb intake I can live with and learned how to cook in a creative way to make gourmet menus that are also diabetes friendly. I have a positive relationship with food again. So, basically, yes, the potential is there for addictive/compulsive behaviors with diabetes but we can transcend those tendencies and live our lives in a positive, recovery-oriented way.

I find your thoughts interesting also Frank. The only drug that I’m on for Diabetes is Insulin…which is a hormone not a drug, as you know.

I eat a variety of healthy foods(and a treat occasionally) as everyone should. I do eat smaller portions at different times but I don’t consider that an eating disorder. The smaller portions with the exercise equals normal amounts of Insulin doseage which keeps my weight in the Good range and my blood sugars in a decent range most of the time. I used to eat more when I was in the workforce and after I had my Kids…and the dog. They took a lot of my energy. I am a Type 1.

I’m a Type 1. An addict needs the drug and can’t function without it. I wouldn’t miss it if I didn’t have to take it. We need this hormone for replacement of what our body destroys. It’s an autoimmune disease (for T1s). Some T2s control their BG with exercise and diet. It’s nice of you to not use “addict” in a pejorative sense, it is just inaccurate as a description for a diabetic’s motivation for shooting up. Considering diabetes (T1 or T2) an “eating disorder” is quite a radical interpretation of the text. It’s not an eating disorder. That’s not to say that there aren’t diabetics out there that suffer from such disorders. There can be issues with ethnic foods in that they may be high in carb or fat and protein. You don’t have to give it all up, you just have to enjoy it in moderation. It’s not the food we eat, it’s our body’s ability to process the food we eat. There is a condition called diabulimia where in order to lose weight, folks don’t take their insulin and consistently run high BGs. Food isn’t necessarily bad, we just have to balance what we eat and watch the fat content. Things these days are very different from when I was diagnosed. The research regarding food has been very enlightening. Carb counting brings a certain amount of freedom. Knowing my carb factor and my sensitivity factor has made managing the condition so much easier. In pop culture, folks have a rather outdated and inaccurate idea of what it means to have diabetes. It is a very significant life-style change and there’s no denying that it is very disruptive – for a while.

I completely agree that having diabetes becomes a culture. Fate has taken a mixed multitude and made us one tribe. We’re all in the same boat in one way or the other. We have issues that non-diabetics just don’t understand. Bad eating choices tend to kill us quicker than anyone else. The internet has been a fantastic tool in bringing together the community of diabetics. Some days are so frustrating, these portals allow you to be able to reach out and vent and get some advice or just sympathy and an encouraging word. One very important function of culture is the transmission of information from generation to generation. There’s a wealth of history and experience in this community. Reading the posts here has been a like a Rosetta stone.

Diabetes has become such a part of me that I no longer think of it as something negative. I suppose that’s easy to say nearly 40 years after diagnosis. I’ve always felt that it could be so much worse. If this is the hand I’m dealt, there’s nothing I can do to change it so I might as well make a feature out of it. :slight_smile:

There are a couple of major flaws in your reasoning. One is that insulin isn’t a drug. It’s a hormone, and its presence is normal (vital) to the body’s healthy functioning. A drug, by definition, is exogenous to the body.

Another is that you don’t seem to have an accurate sense of what addiction is. Drug addiction is an alteration in brain or body chemistry, caused by the drug, wherein the body accepts the presence of the drug as “normal” and exhibits symptoms of distress in the absence of the drug. (Interestingly, it’s often related to an allergic response to the substance in question!) The problem with your characterization of insulin dependence as “addiction” is that the presence of insulin IS normal - non-diabetic people all have insulin in their system, it’s just that it’s supplied by their pancreas rather than a syringe or pump (and, many T2s also have insulin supplied by their pancreas, but their cells don’t respond to it). It’s the absence of insulin that’s abnormal, or the inability to use it in the case of T2. So it is fundamentally incorrect to characterize diabetes as insulin addiction.

Diabetes is not a culture. It’s a disease. It’s been present in human history since ancient times, having been described in Greek and Egyptian texts in very clear terms, and you cannot argue (accurately) that either of these cultures shared our wacky ideas of what constitutes food. I also don’t think you understand eating disorders correctly. They’re essentially a skewed relationship with food that is grounded more in a poor perception of self than they are a poor perception of food. I once knew an anorexic woman who ate only vegan foods - extremely healthy, fresh varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, and had she eaten ENOUGH of them, likely she wouldn’t have been anorexic. It was not the food that was the problem, it was her perception of what was an appropriate amount of food for her sustenance. But I agree that we have, at present, a lousy idea of what food is. We’re way too far away from the production of it to have a connection to it (I’ve started raising my own meat and growing my own veggies and I’m STILL disconnected!)

Thanks, Pete. I see that you’ve got five years on me as a type 1. The education in nutrition has certainly improved through the years. My childhood years were spent in ignorance. Back then it was all punishment.

Biological pharmaceuticals are not technically classified as drugs and insulin and other proteins and hormones are classified as biological pharmaceuticals. They are treated differently by the FDA. I don’t believe that insulin for a type 1 is a drug for me any more than a healthy diet is for me.

Insulin we use today it is a Recombinant DNA hormone created in a lab to be similar to human insulin, but it isn’t natural. Thank you Genentech for doing the research on rDNA stuff. Without them we wouldn’t have Humulin, which lead to humalog and novalog. Those cell splitting genius lab rats that Genentech has historically hired! Gotta love em. I was sick all of the time (hospitalized with things like strept throat and ingrown toenails) when I was on beef/pork insulin. When Humulin came out, and I switched, it was a miracle for me, and I literally have never been hospitalized for a virus or infection since. Thank you Eli Lilly for selling it.

I do, however, have love hate issues with food. I go through phases where I have a lot of lows and I end up not being hungry when I have to eat, and I start to resent food. Then I go through phases when I am sick, and I am hungry, but I cannot get my sugars down, and I cannot eat, and then I want it and I don’t care about the consequences. I don’t endulge, of course, but I definitely have an unhealty relationship with food. I would say it is definitely an eating disorder related disease. Tonight we had pizza for dinner and it is 2 am and my blood sugar and insulin are just about where I feel comfortable going to bed. Maybe I am cranky!

Okay drug addict no insulin addict yes only because without it i’m dead. As for food well i just eat healthy to keep myself healthy not in a way that is involved with my self image but more for my wellbeing. Now don’t get me wrong I do have friendships with some foods like peanut butter it helps during low bg’s the fastest or the occasional slice of pizza but for the most part I stick with foods that keep my bg’s near normal but not to the extreme. now if tomorrow there was a cure ( not holding my breath on that one) I would give it all up the insulin pump the cgm the countless bg sticks all of it but not so much my eating habits or exercise.

Thanks, Tanya. Yeah, I remember the pork insulins. I used them for my first seven or eight years–I can’t remember exactly. I’m on year twenty-eight. Where I see a problem with diabetes is that I almost always feel hungry or thirsty. I drink excessive amounts of water and when I’m on foot or bike I make sure I have at least twenty ounces of water in a bottle in my backpack. It’s like a baby with a pacifier. The thoughts of hunger and thirst are constantly nagging at me. Also, the drinking leads to excessive urination. I maintain a healthy body weight and A1C. I think the problem takes place in the flesh and is communicated to the mind. Also, I am a very physically active person. This leads to hunger and thirst.

Not very healthy views IMHO. If anything they are cautionary tales, places the mind should know exist but only for the reason that we should struggle very very hard to never go into.

T1’s with “true” eating disorders, e.g. diabulemia, account for a very large fraction of deaths among T1 women in their teens and twenties. It’s a vicious vicious cycle which is in fact reinforced by both your views. That’s awful.

I’d define addiction as deprivation. Without insulin and food we starve. We’re addicted to glucose from the time when we were fetuses. Also, I’m thinking more in terms of metaphysics, not science. Introducing a hormone like insulin into a dying body creates a spiritual crisis. Death is suddenly given a negative connotation. Since when has death been wrong? There’s a harsh morality to medicine’s creed. The presence of artificial insulin in my body has never been welcome. My body is always telling me it’s dying. This is where there’s a mind/body split. You mentioned how we are separated from the production of food, well, we are separated from the production of insulin. We aren’t producing it–greed like Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk are.

Frank, is this a prank?

Fair Winds,

No, I have an interest in people’s views on these issues. To me, drug addiction has an economic side that clearly can’t be denied. It’s rough being diabetic in the states. A lot of people define addiction on scientific grounds, but what about the socio-economic side?

I don’t really like to make these sorts of distinctions. You can call yourself a asdfghkl if you want to; you just need a definition that fits you. And you can define drug addict in different sorts of ways.

However, I’ve been type 1 for 17 years now. I massively overinject insulin (fear of high blood sugars) and have a lot of very severe lows. I’ve had several doctors/therapists/shrinks theorize that I have an addiction to insulin, similar to one an alcoholic might have to liquor or a druggie to meth. I can’t quit the stuff the way an alcoholic or drug addict would if they wanted to go clean. But I’m not sure I have an addiction the way a drug addict or alcoholic does. If my diabetes were cured, would I continue to shoot up? No, I would not. I wouldn’t even think about it. Which makes me think I’m not really an addict.

Sure, I have a lot of the same signs as a drug addict. I get really anxious without insulin. I think about it (and my blood sugars) most of the time. But those are mostly from a fear of my blood sugars not being perfect than from an addiction to insulin. Okay, those are my current thoughts on the subject.

I have type 1.5 (LADA), and I do not see myself (in any shape or form) a drug addict. I’m on pure insulin, and although they call it a drug, it is not, it is a hormone. Therefore, it is impossible to be clinically addicted to a hormone that your body naturally produces. Secondly, insulin is far more flexible than most meds are

Diabetes does NOT have anything to do with an eating disorder, they are two very different and distinct things. Especially when it comes to type 1, when is an autoimmune response…

Yeah, I might be one of those head-cases.

This might be a bit off topic, but I find it an interesting phenomenon when people have an extreme reluctance to take any kind of medication because they [ don{t want to become dependent on it[.’ even to the extent of endangering their health, and even when the drug involved is not at all physically addictive. I wonder if this is more common in the U.S. which is a ruggedly individualistic culture, and is an extension of that way of thinking and is not as common in other cultures

Just a thought. Sorry for the weird punctuation. I was typing with my keyboard in Spanish mode and can{t seem to switch back!

I do not like the term “drug addict” that you use. Diabetes is not an addition. If I do not use insulin I will die. Trust me if I could walk away or not use insulin I would.

Addictions is an illness that some people suffer from i.e. drugs, foods and they too will suffer to overcome both of those.

Also I do not feel that Type 2 is necessary a “eating disorder”. I believe the number of Type 2’s are increasing for many reasons that have not yet been determined. Type 1 38 years