Is cacao a psychotropic drug? Psychopathologic study of a population of subjects self-identified as chocolate addicts
Dallard I, Cathebras P, Sauron C, Massoubre C.
Service de Medecine Interne,
Hopital Nord, CHU de Saint-Etienne,
42055 Saint-Etienne.
Encephale. 2001 Mar-Apr;27(2):181-6.


The aim of this work was to search for eating disorders, DSM III-R Axis I mental disorders, personality disorders, and addictive behavior, in self-labeled "chocolate addicts". Subjects were recruited through advertisements placed in a university and a hospital. Fifteen subjects were included, 3 men and 12 women aged between 18 and 49. Most of them were not overweight, although 7 thought they had a weight problem. They consumed an average of 50 g per day of pure cacao and, for 13 subjects, this consumption was lasting since childhood or adolescence. The psychological effects of chocolate, as indicated by the subjects, consisted in feelings of increased energy or increased concentration ability, and in an anxiolytic effect during stress. Seven subjects described minor withdrawal symptoms. None of the subjects reached the thresholds for eating disorders on the EAT and BULIT scales. The structured interview (MINI) identified an important ratio of subjects with a history of major depressive episode (13/15), and one woman was currently experiencing a major depressive episode. Four people suffered, or had suffered from anxiety disorders. Although only one subject satisfied all criteria for a personality disorder on the DIP-Q, seven displayed some pathological personality features. The self-labeled "chocoholics" do not seem to suffer from eating disorders, but may represent a population of psychologically vulnerable and depression--or anxiety--prone people. They seem to use chocolate as a light psychotropic drug able to relieve some of their distress. The amount of cacao consumed, although very chronically, remains moderate, and they rarely display other addictive behaviors.

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