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Psychiatrist explains strangest addiction she's dealt with that ended in tragedy

Tom Wood

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Psychiatrist explains strangest addiction she's dealt with that ended in tragedy

A psychiatrist has revealed the strangest addiction that she has ever encountered in her career, and whilst it’s definitely a very strange one, this isn’t a story that should be treated lightly.

WARNING: This article contains material that some might find distressing.

As that warning states, the first thing to point out is that this story does not have a happy ending, so it seems right to point out that if you’re uncomfortable with discussion about suicide, stop reading now.

Dr Anna Lembke is an expert in addiction. Credit: YouTube/Andrew Huberman
Dr Anna Lembke is an expert in addiction. Credit: YouTube/Andrew Huberman

Dr Anna Lembke is the chief at the Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Stanford University over in the USA, so you know she’s seen some interesting – and no doubt horrific – things in her lengthy career.

She’s also the author of a number of books, as well as being an expert on the USA’s opioid crisis.

So, having literally written the book on addiction, you’d imagine that the strangest addiction she’s ever seen would be something quite out there, wouldn’t you?

You’d be right.

Lembke went on to state that the strangest addiction she has ever come across in her whole career was a ‘lovely’ patient who developed an addiction to water.

Speaking on the Huberman Lab podcast with neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, who also happens to have 1.78 million YouTube subscribers, the doctor explained what happened.

Drinking too much water can be bad for your health. Credit Pexels
Drinking too much water can be bad for your health. Credit Pexels

“I had a very lovely patient who had a severe alcohol addiction,” Lembke started.

“She got into recovery from her alcohol addiction for many years, but she had a polydipsia, or an urge to be drinking something a lot.

“So, she drank a lot of water and slowly over time she realised that if she drank enough water, she could become hyponatremic and delirious and be out of herself.”

The host jumped in: “You can die from it, right?”

Lembke continued: “Right – but she just wanted to be out of her own head.

“So, she would periodically intentionally overdose on water in order to [be out of her head].

“It was so sad. So sad.”

Dr Anna Lembke. Credit: Stanford: Ethics in Society/Wikimedia Commons
Dr Anna Lembke. Credit: Stanford: Ethics in Society/Wikimedia Commons

Huberman asked: “What happened to her?”

“She eventually took her own life.

“She was a lovely woman and she was so bright, she had so many interests and passions and of course it was very sad when she died.

“But that [addiction] was a wow to me.

“It was like ‘wow, If you have this disease of addiction you can even get addicted to water’”.

The podcast host then went on to make a very valid point about how there is no specific part of the brain that gets addicted to water, but there is a more general brain ‘circuit’ that deals with ‘pleasure, pain, and addiction’.

He added: “Water plugged into that circuit.”

If you want to catch the whole podcast, you can do so on Andrew Huberman’s YouTube channel.

Featured Image Credit: YouTube/AndrewHuberman Thomas LENNE / Alamy

Topics: Science, Drugs, YouTube

Tom Wood
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