Staff, St. Mary's Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospital, West Palm Beach;
Director, Palm Beach Institute for Medical Research
Address: 6708 Pamela Lane, West Palm Beach, FL 33405
more info here www.dorway.com
The habitual consumption of "diet" products containing the chemical
aspartame not only risks aspartame disease but also clinical addiction.
Thirty-three (5.6 percent) of 540 aspartame reactors in the author's
recent series found it difficult or impossible to discontinue them
because of severe withdrawal effects. They or their reporting relatives
(especially parents of afflicted children) specifically used the terms
"addict" and "addiction." Others who used comparable terms were
excluded even though they experienced similar withdrawal symptoms. The
FDA and members of Congress have been repeatedly urged by me and
thousands of outraged aspartame reactors to declare aspartame products
an "imminent public health hazard," and remove them from the market. The
mounting evidence for their causation or aggravation of headache,
seizures, depression, many neurologic disorders (most notably multiple
sclerosis), visual difficulty, allergies, diabetic complications, and a
host of other conditions — coupled with the potential for addiction —
can be ignored no longer.
"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by the right names."
Chinese Proverb....ASPARTAME=RAt poison!
"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp
of experience." Patrick Henry (Speech to the Virginia Convention, 1775)
Over half the adult population currently consumes products containing
aspartame (NutraSweet®, Equal®). A multibillion-dollar industry
aggressively promotes thousands of items containing this chemical
sweetener that consumers use in prodigious amounts to avoid sugar or
lose weight... even though the latter intent often proves a delusion.
I have described many serious side effects and medical/public health
hazards attributable to aspartame products(1-4). The neurologic,
psychologic, eye, endocrine, metabolic and pediatric ravages in my data
base of over 1,200 aspartame reactors, comprised of both patients and
correspondents, are impressive. Additionally, it is my increasing
conviction that aspartame products can cause, aggravate or accelerate
migraine (5), seizures (6), multiple sclerosis (3), diabetes and its
complications (7), Alzheimer's disease (8,9), and even brain tumors
(10). The clinical and scientific basis for these assertions have been
Unfortunately, another tragic problem has been neglected: addiction to
aspartame products. Persons consuming large amounts not only may suffer
aspartame disease, but also have difficulty stopping them because of
violent and prolonged withdrawal reactions... the hallmark of addiction.
Recovered alcoholic patients repeatedly stated that they felt worse
after avoiding aspartame than alcohol, and asserted that they had traded
one addiction for another. My experience, coupled with more than 10,000
consumers who volunteered their complaints to the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) and manufacturers, reflects the magnitude of this
widespread unrecognized affliction.
In view of the controversial nature and implications of this subject,
clarification of my status at the outset is relevant. I practised many
years as a primary care internist and medical consultant prior to
encountering aspartame disease. I continue to remain corporate neutral
— that is, no grants, monies or other inducements were received from
industry, government or other institutions.
This report focuses on 33 persons (5.6 percent) among the most recent
540 aspartame reactors in my series. The terms "addict" or "addiction"
were specifically used either by patients or reporting relatives and
friends — notwithstanding the absence of these words in my 9-page
Aspartame Reaction Questionnaire Survey (3). Persons using other terms
implying addiction (e.g., "severe craving") were excluded
notwithstanding the suffering of withdrawal symptoms.
There were 22 females and 11 males. Most were between 25 and 50 at the
time of consultation or correspondence. Four children — ages 2-1/2, 3,
6, and 9-1/2 — were included (see Discussion).
The amounts of aspartame products consumed daily ranged up to six liters
or 12 cans of sodas, 20 or more tabletop packets, and considerable gum.
A number of persons gave the history of ingesting considerable iced tea
mixes containing aspartame, especially in hot weather, prior to the
onset of clinical aspartame disease.
The manifestations of aspartame disease and the pathos of such addiction
appear in the case summaries. The withdrawal symptoms (e.g., severe
irritability, tension, depression, tremors, nausea, sweating) usually
abated promptly on resuming aspartame, along with an intense craving
for these products. One woman noted: "This was as bad as when I quit
smoking 13 years ago." Examples of other pertinent clinical aspects are
• As with other addictions, denial and distortion were encountered.
The mother of two young children stated: "I didn't want to believe
aspartame was the cause of my problems. Even though anything with it
made me crave carbohydrates, I dismissed this as my imagination."
• Several patients experienced severe withdrawal symptoms when they
traveled abroad and were unable to purchase aspartame sodas. On the
possibility these features represented caffeine withdrawal, they tried
drinking more caffeine... but to no avail.
• Some developed severe reactions when they also drank alcohol. One
stated: "My memory would just go completely."
A. The anguished friend of an aspartame addict stated: "She could
hardly walk. She could hardly see. She was already going to a
neurologist because they thought she had multiple sclerosis. But she
told me not to talk about it even though her physician already told her
that aspartame was the problem, especially after he started researching
its role in brain tumors — because two persons in her family died from
brain tumors! When told aspartame would kill her, she said: ‘I'm
addicted to it and can't live without it. If they try to take it off
the market, I'll get it on the black market!'"
B. The wife of an addicted aspartame reactor wrote: "I've told my
husband over and over again, as have several physicians, that his
problems would probably go away if he got off aspartame. But he says he
is addicted and can't." Provoked by her continued purchase of aspartame
sodas, the daughter-in-law asked whether she would hand him a gun if he
said he wanted to commit suicide. She responded: "Please don't say
anything else. It's hard enough to watch him lose his memory, fall, and
hardly be able to walk. I just want to make him happy."
C. A mother stated: "My children are no longer allowed to drink diet
sodas or anything else with aspartame in it. Unfortunately, I am
addicted to it. I will try and wean myself—but boy, oh boy, it's not
going to be easy!"
D. A previous alcoholic patient expressed concern that he had traded
alcoholism for aspartame addiction. He observed in a letter: "There
are MANY just like me. You will rarely see a recovered alcoholic
without a drink in hand, day or night, whether it be coffee or soda...
usually DIET. We can hardly keep sweeteners on hand at our meetings.
MANY of us suffer from tremendous mood bouts. If aspartame has
contributed to the difficulties I have had with depression and mood
swings, I WANT TO KNOW!"
E. The wife of a man consuming up to six liters of diet cola daily
concluded: "He is truly addicted and unable to help himself... When not
drinking it, he is like a new person, or at least the person I once
knew. But when he then drinks it after abstaining for a week (as a
result of incredible determination), I see depression, verbal
aggression, a sense of hopelessness, inability to sleep, poor
concentration, trouble with eyesight, chest problems, and weight gain."
F. A female correspondent with aspartame-related panic attacks and
palpitations wrote: "I heard about this problem and will be taking the
abstinence test. It will be hard because I am addicted to diet cola.
Something has to be done! It seems to me that capitalism is getting in
the way of our lives."
G. A woman with an "addiction to diet cola" refused to admit the
"ridiculous amounts I have been using, even to my husband. I have the
symptom of always being thirsty from aspartame. What do I do?"
H. A woman with aspartame disease was misdiagnosed as having multiple
sclerosis. She stated: "I am convinced that aspartame was at the root
of my problem. It is hard to convey just how much of this stuff I was
using. I used at least one large box of aspartame a week... for myself!
After my husband heard on a radio broadcast that it was bad, he told me
not to use it, and refused to buy it for me any longer. I then
literally bought it weekly, hid it in the kitchen, and used it when he
was out of the room. And people still don't believe it is addictive???"
I. An addicted young man with longstanding symptoms he ascribed to
aspartame sodas wrote: "I drank a lot of pop with aspartame when I was
a kid in the 1980s, and felt bad. After reading a page on the net about
insomnia, being lightheaded, having ringing in the ears, and feeling
unreal ‘like I was on something,’ I stopped. But it's hard to make
yourself stop. It took about two months before I felt better. I think
most people who drink diet pop get addicted to it... like me. At first
you don't seem to like the taste; then you crave it."
J. A 28-year-old woman previously drank as much as two liters of an
aspartame cola daily. She stated: "I was ‘addicted’ to it, and
suffered terrible muscle spasms, vertigo, dizziness, nausea, depression,
slurred speech, etc. I stumbled across an article about the dangers of
aspartame, and was absolutely horrified. Within seven days after
stopping, most of these symptoms disappeared. I have had no recurrences
K. A hospital pharmacist with considerable knowledge about addictive
substances and drug abuse wrote: "I have been a chronic user of diet
drinks for years, and always joked that I was ‘addicted’ to aspartame.
Recently, I decided to stop them, but I can't do it no matter how hard I
try. When I'm not drinking these drinks, the people I work with and my
family have all commented that I act as if I'm going through heroin
withdrawal. I also experience many problems while drinking them, the
most profound of which is joint pain" (see 11).
L. The mother of an aspartame addict gave a poignant followup of her
daughter's case, which I described previously (1, p. 98), when her
addiction recurred. She had been incapacitated with aspartame disease
as a 23-year-old student. In her own words, "My epileptic-type
seizures, and drastic personality and intellectual changes were so
severe as to end my marriage, nearly ruin my academic standing, and
caused me to lose my job." After stopping her excessive consumption of
aspartame sodas, she evidenced clinical normalization, and then bought a
beautiful home. The mother described her subsequent relapse.
"About eight months ago, unknown to me, she began drinking
considerable diet soda. I learned a few days ago that she started
drinking alcohol, plans to leave her fiance, and bought a motorcycle
— exactly as she had done 12 years previously when drinking diet
soda. Her aspartame addiction makes her totally irrational. She
crusaded against aspartame for 12 years, and is now drinking it.
I don't know where to go for help, especially because most
doctors I know think aspartame is just wonderful!"
M. A woman wrote: "I am probably one of the many ‘aspartame addicts’
you have come in contact with. I have had a terrible diet cola habit of
drinking at least a 12-pack/day for many years. I would love to change
because I believe my particular ailments could be related to aspartame.
Where do I go from here? Please help!!"
N. The brother of a "recovered aspartame addict" related the details of
his sibling's case to a neighbor who was beginning to drink excessive
amounts of diet sodas. He stated: "I am hoping that he doesn't face
severe withdrawal the way my brother did. After 5 or 6 bad bouts of
withdrawal, he was finally able to kick the habit."
O. An aspartame reactor invited her neighbors to a block party aimed at
urging them to avoid aspartame which would not be on the premises. A
"very addicted" woman with severe dermatitis and fatigue had tried to do
so previously at the urging of her daughter, but resumed diet cola in
two weeks. She went to the block party with a can hidden under her
jacket... but was promptly spotted. She confessed: "I'm sorry, I just
can't break the addiction. I can't get off of it!"
P. A 36-year-old computer programmer experienced many symptoms
attributable to aspartame disease after he began using "a line of
products containing aspartame." He would ingest as much as three or
four quarts of an instant iced tea in several flavors on weekend
afternoons during the summer. Nearly one month of abstinence was
required before his symptoms abated.
Q. A 47-year-old female sought consultation by the author for
increasingly severe problems over the previous 1-1/2 years, during which
time she consumed large amounts of aspartame. She began the day by
drinking three cups of coffee to each of which an aspartame tabletop
sweetener was added. She then ingested 10-12 glasses or cups of
aspartame-sweetened beverages, and ate considerable amounts of aspartame
This patient gave a history of alcoholism and excessive amphetamine use
decades earlier. (Amphetamines had been taken for extreme fatigue and
weight reduction.) She joined Alcoholics Anonymous 20 years previously.
She was now happily married, and had taken only a single social drink in
Her main concern was increasing confusion and memory loss over the past
year -- especially because she prided herself on a "photographic
memory." During this time, she also suffered severe headaches ("never a
problem before"), hearing difficulty ("as if my ears were covered"),
"lightheadedness with staggering," vertigo on lying down ("the room was
actually spinning"), attacks of severe nervousness and agitation,
intense hunger, a craving for sugar and sweets, intense muscle cramps,
pains in the legs and thighs, aching and stiffness of various joints,
marked intolerance to cold, and elevation of her blood pressure (noted
for the first time). Dryness of the eyes became so bothersome that she
required one bottle of artificial tears a week.
Another distressing symptom was severe depression. The patient
considered committing suicide on several occasions. She had the good
fortune of belonging to a circle of caring friends who thwarted such an
The family history was also pertinent. Both parents had been
alcoholics. Her mother was "a potential diabetic," and her nephew a
After learning of the possible cause or aggravation of similar problems
in other persons from aspartame, she promptly stopped all such products.
She emphasized, however, that the ensuing "withdrawal symptoms" were far
worse than those experienced after discontinuing alcohol or
amphetamines. On a regimen of an appropriate diet, supportive measures
and continued aspartame avoidance, her symptoms improved. She no longer
needed the artificial tears. An entire subsequent visit was devoted to
discussing her lifelong "fear of fat" that had initiated the use of
Addiction to aspartame products is as real as abuse of tobacco, alcohol
and drugs. The foregoing experience of a single alerted physician
attests to this clinical phenomenon. In effect, the United States has
been the innocent victim of regulatory shortcomings related to the
initial and continued approval of aspartame products.
To my knowledge, this is the first report that addresses aspartame
addiction. I have challenged colleagues to cite comparable instances
of gross denial in contemporary medicine concerning widely used drugs or
chemicals classified "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS). (Aspartame
was developed initially as a drug to treat peptic ulcer.) Moreover, I
have repeatedly asserted that aspartame should not have been approved
for human use in view of the high incidence of brain and other tumors
found in animal studies, and the absence of long-term trials in humans
using "real world" products exposed to prolonged storage and heat.
The plight of aspartame addicts has been compounded by (a) footdragging
of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) despite its own data base (12,
13), (b) the brainwashing of health professionals (especially doctors
and dieticians) from constant reiteration by pro-industry advocates that
aspartame disease does not exist, and (c) the refusal of some
addictionologists even to consider this issue. The thousands of
complaints volunteered to the FDA, along with my independent data on
over 1,200 aspartame reactors, indicate the gravity of such
Exclusion of Related Terminology
This report clearly underestimates the prevalence of aspartame
addiction. I purposely excluded aspartame reactors who continued to
consume large amounts despite debilitating symptoms because they used
expressions other than "addict" and "addiction." Some examples:
• Many aspartame reactors described their "unnatural craving" for
aspartame products. It was not limited to diet sodas — e.g., a woman
with a severe "craving" for aspartame chewing gum, especially after
meals. In fact, the habitual chewing of such gum poses a unique great
threat (see below).