To make the conversation super simple, addiction is a psychologically dependency on something for some reason. I believe that some reason is our inherent want to feel alive. We all chase thrills and these thrills can be in the form of that next promotion, or something you stick into your arm.
The key to this theory is dopamine. If you’re not familiar with dopamine, its the brain chemical associated with motivation, pleasure, and learning. Researchers once thought that people who were addicted to substances were just triggering dopamine, but addiction doesn’t make sense because they should be a forever state of bliss. The pleasure of a drug is temporary, but the addiction could be a lifetime, and no one really wants to be addicted.
Dopamine is more of an attention receptor. Dopamine spikes when it wants us to pay attention. This is why we get dopamine hits when we look at our phone and see that we got a like on Instagram. It’s the same chemical that alerts us when we are in danger because the danger is something we should also pay attention to. It may be the case that addicts aren’t chasing a good time, but dopamine is telling him/her that sex, drugs, or alcohol is something they should be paying attention to.
With that being said, what if dopamine is the drug everyone needs? It seems like a very dangerous drug if used dangerously, but can also be very productive. Dopamine is what gets us up in the morning and allows us to shine at our job. Dopamine could be used to help us pay attention to the most important things in life. When taking, drugs, the body receives 5 to ten times more of dopamine, which forces people to pay more attention to the drug more than anything else.
The more a person takes a drug, the more the body becomes more desensitized to dopamine. It’s a detrimental cycle because in order for the addict feel anything, they must take more drugs.
Drugs aren’t the only things that give use dopamine hits. Just like cocaine, and overindulging of foods can produce the same effects of above. The dopamine levels in overweight people are lower than those of average weight. In this case, those who are overeating could be compensating for the lower amounts of dopamine. The same dopamine that is also be desensitized while gorging on sweets. In the case of addiction, we should be looking at donuts as well as heroine.
We can’t blame moral weakness in all cases of addiction. Blaming overweight people because they don’t have any self control, or even metabolism could be short sighted. Dopamine can be the problem for weight, but it can also be a solution. Exercise is known to elevate dopamine levels. It’s all about where you place your attention.
Addiction probably has nothing to do with pleasure. The hit of dopamine occurs when we find something interesting. Something exciting. When children take ritalin, dopamine elevates and it allows them to perform better. They perform better because with the increase dopamine, they take an interest into the subject. If we pay attention to the good things in life, we’ll be excited about the good things, and we’ll start to pay attention to it. Use the bliss you feel to be addicted to healthy habits.