Is The 'Spice-Drunk' Feeling Why People Love Feeling The Flavor Burn?

Whoever said pain is a pleasure not only expressed a mouthful but may have been on to something scientifically factual. This idea is particularly true for those who have developed a passion for eating different spicy foods. From heart-healthy options like red chili peppers in your favorite Thai dish to hot wings from Buffalo Wild Wings that require a waiver before serving them (via Business Insider), the options can seem endless.

Unfortunately, not everyone can handle the heat, so they keep spice from the kitchen. How can some people take a Carolina Reaper, the hottest pepper, while others can barely down a few ounces of sriracha sauce? According to Thrillist, our long-term exposure to spicy foods has a significant impact on our ability to tolerate the depletion of the neurotransmitter substance P, which transmits pain signals to the brain by pungent food molecules such as capsaicin.

If spicy food correlates to our brain, is it possible that a feeling of "spice-drunk" is why people love feeling the burn?

The science of spice

Have you ever completed a marathon or a long-distance run? If so, it's said that after a while, you get what's called a runner's high. According to Live Science, this is a catch-all phrase used to characterize the feeling of euphoria associated with long stints of aerobic exercise caused by physiological changes in the body while exercising. This concept is now being posited as analogous to how those with a love for spicy food feel during a "spice-drunk" moment.

According to The Takeout, when we eat spicy foods a compound called Capsaicin creates a burning sensation that activates the pain receptors inside the mouth. As a result, the body then releases the neurotransmitter endorphins to block your nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. The body also releases the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine, which, when combined with endorphins, creates a euphoric, "drunk" feeling. Both the burn and enjoyment exist at the same time which gives credence to the idea that pain is pleasure. However, like anything, too much may be harmful — it is possible for the spice to get so strong it overpowers any pleasure, so be wise.