Salt addiction: a different kind of drug addiction

Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(5):1233-4. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2006.04.041. Epub 2006 Jun 21.


Under the headline "drug addiction" the medical world has exclusively been interested in psychoactive drugs. For diagnosis of substance dependence (addiction), DSM-IV-TR has determined seven criteria, and fulfilling at least three of them signifies addiction. When studied salt intake according to these criteria it is seen that most of them are fulfilled, showing that sodium chloride, which is not classified under the psychoactive drugs, is capable of producing addiction. Namely: at the beginning of salt abstinence, anorexia and slight nausea during meal time (withdrawal symptoms); about 1000-fold difference of per capita salt consumption between several human societies, and life-long continuation of discretional salt intake behaviour (high dose and very long duration of use); difficulty of restriction of salt intake (unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control); lack of success of salt restriction campaigns in hypertensive patients (substance use despite health problem). Additionally, the decrease of salt preferences of individuals whose salt intake are restricted for some time, and vice versa, signifies tolerance. On the other hand, it is evident that as the main culprit of developing systemic hypertension and as producing or promoting some other important health problems, salt intake causes millions of deaths in the world yearly. The recognition of addicting property of salt will facilitate combating these health problems.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology
  • Sodium Chloride / toxicity*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome
  • Substance-Related Disorders / classification
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology*


  • Sodium Chloride