Addictions, Dopamine and the Modern Society
From natural to modern addictions.
What do “natural addictions” mean?
Well, let’s say you are a young homo sapiens living in the medieval times somewhere on our great planet. The biggest dose of Dopamine you will get, if you …
- have sex to ensure the survival of the race
- hunt to get food and though to survive
- help others. (To get help yourself in times you need it, also to survive)
- and some more …
All of these things lead your brain to build up an addiction, which is like this: If something is good for you, keep doing it!
What has changed in modern society?
Well, imagine you have been time shifted, from when electricity, computers, mass production did not exist, into a world where everything can be procured with no big effort. This leads us to do so many things at once, just because of the fact that we are able to. And as this circle begins to turn in the young childhood, where children are confronted with computers, sweets of all colors and tastes, food that is so delicious but have no nutritional value, and so many other things, there is no surprise — once we are grown up — we tend to want so many things to get the same Dopamine level as a child. We are used to feel good. And we want to feel good 24/7.
Also stimuli caused by computer games will follow this concept. The human brain tends to need more stimuli than usual and starts to focus too much at once. This would explain how ADHD develops and how it affects our ability to focus on one task at a time.
What does this change mean to our body?
The human body wasn’t use to this kind of Dopamine overdose, and maybe still isn’t.
The constant need of good feelings changes the way we enjoy feelings generally. We begin to swap human relationships with playing computer games, working hour after hour, and/or smoking cigarettes like it is a break ritual. And that’s fine for our short-term-brain because it is very happy at this point and a while afterwards.
But if we ignore the time after, where the good hormones have left our body and the addiction became even bigger, we will demand those things more aggressively. Every action we do, targets — and so forces — us to get the same amount of happiness or even more to infinity. The brain doesn’t think about taking it slow and stepping back a little. Why should it? The long-term-thinking only exists in our conscious mind. So as long as your lungs are not hurting while or after smoking, why should we stop?
Can I change that behavior and still be a part of the modern world?
Of course you can. It will sound easy but it will need your constant motivation over several month. This can be ensured by looking at this topic in a more scientific way. So read a lot and stay informed. Keep on track!
Here is the first tip: Change your own valuation of the long term future. Make yourself clear about how you will feel in the next days and how your activities at the moment will influence this time. Mention that all things that produce joy will increase the demand of it automatically.
In a more practical way: Let’s say you want to quit smoking on a long-term base. Keep in mind that a single cigarette will increase your addiction logarithmetically (inverse exponentially). So the FIRST will be the WORST.
Second tip: Change the setting.
Studies conducted in the 70s showed an interesting effect on addictions. Rats were put into a cage and two kinds of water were provided to them. Normal water and water spiked with cocaine. The result was that all rats died by an overdose of cocaine.
The second experiment was based on the first but had one little difference. The rats were not trapped in a cage but had a nice outdoor setting with a lot of funny stuff to play with. Not one rat died due to cocaine overdose.
This location-switch turned out to be an effective tool against addictions. But this also could mean that our body sometimes thinks like it is stuck in a kind of cage. We are not able to be free and have fun all day. We are supposed to be unhappy.
Well, it is JUST a way of thinking and can be changed at any point! Start living a life that makes you happy in LONG-TERM. Adjust your focus to be happy at the END of your life, (so when you are old and grumpy) simply because it will be the last thing you will experience and enjoy. Turn happiness into a science and rationally question everything regarding this topic. Keep up your interest and keep in mind that long-term-thinking won’t affect you over night. It will be a process that — once started — NEVER stops and so does your happiness.
… for reading.