When we say that a drug gets someone high, what we really mean is that chemicals are released in their brain that make them feel good in a certain way. Drug use is usually the only thing we say gets us high, but it’s sometimes used to apply to other situations. You’ve probably been annoyed by someone telling you they were “high off life.”
Although it might sound weird to say they’re getting you high, there are several other activities that release chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Some of these have actually been shown to mimic the effect of drugs. So, if you want to live a truly sober life, make sure to avoid the 10 following things.
You’ve probably had an annoying friend try to convince you to run by talking about the “runner’s high.” Supposedly the endorphins released in your brain while running make you feel really good. The people that talk to you about this might sound like they’re in a weird, masochistic cult, but there’s actually some science to back up what they’re saying.
The idea that running makes you feel like you’re on drugs has been around a long time, but has only recently been studied extensively. Researchers in Germany recently showed that running releases endorphins in the brain that mimic the effect of drugs. These chemicals are associated with positive mood changes and euphoria. That sounds an awful lot like a drug. This is likely the best form of “tripping” that can happen while you’re jogging.
Many of us crave food like a drug, wanting to get our “fix” of calories. And of course, you do have to eat to live. And doesn’t that make it the most addictive drug of all? We literally can’t stop or we die. Of course, humans can go for a while without food. In fact, most people can survive 30 to 40 days with no food, provided they’re drinking plenty of water.
Some people intentionally take time off from eating. Why would they do that? It’s been a religious tradition for a long time and many hippies also do it because it is “cleansing.” It’s seen as a spiritual process that can bring clarity and insight. But maybe they’re just getting high.
Studies have found improvements in mood, mental clarity, vigilance, a sense of improved well-being, and sometimes euphoria after fasting. As you would expect, not eating when you’re hungry puts stress on your body. But stress isn’t always a bad thing. Our bodies respond to this stress by shooting out feel-good and protective chemicals. Basically, it compensates for our hunger by getting us high.
And it doesn’t just feel good. Apparently it can also have some more long term positive effects. Short-term fasting has been shown to alleviate depression and anxiety in chronic pain patients.
8. Binaural Beats
What are binaural beats? This is a question we asked ourselves when we started this article. And now, after some research, we kind of understand it. Basically, the path from each ear to the brain is separated. So, it is possible to hear one pitch in your right ear and another in your left. When two tones are presented like this, they are called binaural beats. When these beats meet in your brain they create a new third sound.
The brain waves created are associated with a variety of meditative states. But some claim that they can even make you feel high. If you go on YouTube, there are tons of free videos that promise to make you feel different highs. But you can also pay for them from other sites, if you just like spending money.
A reporter from LA Weekly decided to do just that. She listened to files that claimed to mimic acid, cocaine, marijuana, and several other drugs. Her conclusion was that while listening to these tracks doesn’t get you high in the same way as actually taking the drugs would, they mimic certain aspects of the drug experience. For example, the marijuana track made her relaxed, while the cocaine one made her want to dance. And, even though they don’t have as intense effects, they are probably cheaper, safer, and easier. But they aren’t totally without risk, as listening at loud levels may be correlated with hearing loss.
7. Listen to Music
The connection between drugs and music has been around a long time. Musicians do drugs, rappers rap about drugs, and people take drugs while listening to music. Even classical musicians were known for excess drug consumption. But have you ever considered that music may function like a drug on its own?
Researchers have found that listening to music releases chemicals in the brain that are similar to drugs. Specifically opiates, like heroin. Thankfully, this addiction is much less likely to lead to a death at 27. Listening to music you enjoy releases substances that are naturally produced in your brain’s opioid system. Structurally, as mentioned, these resemble drugs like heroin.
People love music, and they keep coming back. Because they’re hooked. In surveys, people routinely rank music in the top 10 things that give them the most pleasure (hey, those surveys stole our format!). They even tend to rank it above money and food. You know a substance is addictive when you literally rank it above something you have to have to live.
6. Sleep Deprivation
We were told by our parents growing up, and by doctors now, that sleep is important to live a healthy life. But many of us resisted our parents insistence that we go to sleep each night. Hearing that it was bedtime was an upsetting tragedy. As adults, we still want to stay up late to play. The only difference is what defines ‘play’ has changed. Part of the reason might be because sleep deprivation gets you high.
While lacking sleep can make one grumpy, it has also been shown by researchers to cause temporary positive mood changes. A study from UC-Berkeley and Harvard Medical looked at the brains of two groups, one of which slept normally and one of which went 30 hours without sleep. The group that didn’t get to sleep, surprisingly, seemed to gain temporary optimism and exaggerated emotional responses.
However, this doesn’t mean we’re suggesting you stay up all night. Sleep is very important, and while the dopamine boost is nice, the researchers say that it could lead to risk taking and impulsive decisions. So, if you’re gonna stay up for awhile, make sure you do your best to keep thinking critically.
5. Eat Sugar
Disclaimer: none of the entries on this list are suggestions. We aren’t recommending you try any of these. Some of these are probably good for you, or are just neutral. But sugar, especially added sugars, can be very detrimental to your health. So, you know, use moderation at least.
They took the coke out of Coke a long time ago, but it’s still got sugar in it. Sugar looks like cocaine, but that’s really the only similarity. Or is it? People have long described sugar as a drug. And although no studies have actually shown a link between sugar and hyperactivity, they have shown that large amounts of sugar tends to lead to a decrease in attention span and increased adrenaline.
Sugar is not as clearly detrimental as alcohol, as it has no short-term negative effects beyond the well-known sugar crash. But it does have several long-term negative health consequences. Because of this, it is one of the most commonly abused substances out there. Be careful that you don’t succumb to “sugar mania.”
4. Isolation Tanks
Drugs are usually seen in society as inherently social. We drink together, in bars and at parties. If someone drinks alone, people often worry about them or think there is something wrong. We’re warned about peer pressure; the idea that other people will try to make us do drugs. So, one may assume, the best way to avoid getting high is to isolate yourself totally. One way to isolate yourself for awhile is to try out a sensory deprivation tank. Basically, you get in a tank filled with water. There’s also so much salt that you float. The water is heated to the temperature of your body, so you supposedly don’t feel your body at all.
If you’re a fan of Joe Rogan, you may have heard him talk about them before. He claims using them is one of the most important experiences of his life and that “everybody should do the tank.” The tank supposedly causes relaxation, eases pain, and heightens senses. It can also cause both visual and auditory hallucinations. Apparently, when the brain is deprived of sensory input, it sometimes creates its own. It’s also been shown to act effectively as a stress reducer.
Despite their supposed benefits, going in a tank can be a scary experience. So, only try it if you think you’re ready.
3. Write Code
We’ll warn you up front that this entry is anecdotal and lacks the scientific backing of most of the other entries. But we thought it was interesting enough that we had to include it. When one focuses entirely on one activity, they can enter a sort of trance-like state. We’ve all experienced an engrossing moment like this, whether it’s while having sex or playing video games or meditating.
However, this controversial state, referred to by some psychologists as flow, can also be arrived at while working. According to one former software engineer, this happened frequently while he was writing code. David Auerbach calls this the coder’s high: “those times when, for hours on end, I would lock my vision straight at the computer screen, trance out, and become a human-machine hybrid zipping through the virtual architecture.” He compares this state to zen meditation, claiming that coders’ ability to tune out the external world is impressive. He tells the story of one coder who was so engrossed in their work they didn’t hear a loud conversation right behind them and didn’t respond to their own name. Another coder once looked up from his work, surprised it was still bright outside. He thought he had worked till night. But he soon realized it was the next morning; he had been in such a state of flow he worked all night without realizing it.
Just like many drugs, coding can cause one to ignore external stimuli and lose track of time. So next time you’re planning to drink away your sorrows, maybe sit down and throw yourself into your work instead.
2. Have Sex or Watch Porn
Sex is like chicken; pretty much everyone in the world likes it. People desire sex over most other things. Many of the things we do in our life we do because we think it might help us to someday get sex. Why else would anyone want to go to medical school other than to impress the opposite sex? That’s a joke, of course, but the lengths people will go to for sex is pretty incredible. If we can’t get sex, we’ll use the substitute of masturbation, sometimes accompanied by porn.
Sex doesn’t just feel good physically in the moment. It can make you feel good for days afterwards. According to a study, an ‘afterglow’ of satisfaction remained for two days after people had sex. This term is usually used to refer to a sense of well-being experienced after the more intense effects of a drug have faded. This feeling also tends to make you feel more bonded to your partner.
There is also the more intense, immediate feeling that comes with orgasm. When you have sex, your brain releases all sorts of neurochemicals. These chemicals cause the euphoric feelings we experience. Brain scans have shown that a person’s brain looks very similar during orgasm to how it would look if they took heroin.
Research has also shown that brain activity of porn addicts while watching is similar to that of drugs addicts. While it’s definitely not as dangerous as heroin, porn (or sex) can definitely have negative effects if you have a bad relationship with it.
1. Fall in Love
As Ke$ha so eloquently put it, Your Love Is My Drug. She probably meant it as a metaphor, but it’s much closer to reality than you might think. Everyone knows that falling in love is one of the most intense things someone can go through, with extremely high highs and potentially very low lows.
According to a study, when you fall in love 12 different parts of your brain work together to release huge amounts of chemicals. Specifically, it sends out lots of dopamine, oxytocin, and adrenaline. Another study showed that looking at the person you are in love with causes changes in your brain that mimic the effects of cocaine. Usually, if kept in check, love can be a much more positive and safe drug than coke.
This leads to a cycle similar to that experienced by a drug addict. It makes us feel good, so we want more of it. If we go without the person that we love for a while, we start to crave them like we would a drug. And if we lose them, we go through withdrawals. But, as with drugs, eventually the withdrawals will stop. And then, someday, we can find another person to get high off of.