Zombies Are Addicts, Too

by Bill Brenner on June 8, 2012

Zombies have become the new American superhero, revered in countless Facebook memes and magazine articles. Now we have real people eating other real people.

Mood music:


I normally wouldn’t touch a topic like this, because zombies are a work of fiction. But lately people have been trying hard to will the fiction to life. We have one guy eating the face off a homeless man and another guy eating his buddy’s heart and brain. Somewhere in the news coverage, we started hearing of bath salts, a synthetic drug that turns users into zombies, not the stuff you put in a bath.

I get it. All these reports of cannibalistic behavior make the zombie apocalypse talk too easy to pass up.

But what’s more interesting to me than the zombie jokes is an article about cannibalism as an addictive, obsessive behavior. Though I’m a guy who suffers from an addictive, obsessive personality, I’m still trying to wrap my head around how someone could get addicted to eating their own kind. Huffington Post scribe David Moye wrote an enlightening article on the subject.

In it, he interviews Karen Hylen, primary therapist at Summit Malibu Treatment Center in California. Hylen said that although cannibalism has historically been for survival or religious purposes, recent cases have been caused by addiction or mental illness.

“People who have engaged in this act report feelings of euphoria or get a ‘high’ by performing the action to completion,” she told The Huffington Post. “These individuals have psychopathic tendencies and are generally not psychotic. They know exactly what they are doing.”

According to Hylen, cannibalism starts out as just a fantasy, but when the fantasy is acted on, “the pleasure center of the brain becomes activated and large amounts of dopamine are released — similar to what happens when someone ingests a drug like cocaine.”

The result is similar to those of other addictive behaviors. The addictive needs to experience that pleasure again and repeats the activity, from the hunt to the gruesome end, “just as a cocaine addict becomes addicted to the process of cutting up lines before they ingest the drug itself,” said Hylen.

Addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorders can be damn scary in the random ways they choose to manifest themselves.  If you’re a drug addict who cleans up, you’re called an inspiration. If you’re a cannibal who cleans up, you still go to jail and get called a freak. That’s as it should be, of course.

I’ll just consider myself lucky because my personality latched on to junk food, tobacco and alcohol. It’s easy to gorge on that stuff without having to murder someone.

Those binges have turned me into a zombie many times before. But I was a more acceptable kind of zombie.

There’s a bright side to everything. Even a zombie apocalypse.

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