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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Addiction About Pleasure

Addiction is a beguiling call to beauty, not beauty in the sense of something that is attractive but rather a quest for pleasure. Those who work in the field of addiction and recovery are mostly in concurrence with the disease model. The research all points in the same direction leading to the same conclusion: those who suffer from addiction are not weak minded, do not lack moral fiber, and are certainly not criminals or psychopaths to be caged like wild animals. Neuroscientist David Linden has been working on the subject of addiction for some time and in his new book, The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good, he explains his take on what lies behind addiction.

The scientific definition of addiction is actually rooted in the brain's inability to experience pleasure, Linden explained to Fresh Airs Terry Gross. "There are variants in genes that turn down the function of dopamine signaling within the pleasure circuit". There are people who carry these gene variants, which signify muted dopamine systems which lead to blunted pleasure circuits, affecting their pleasure-seeking activities, Linden says.

Blunted dopamine systems prohibit certain people from experiencing pleasure the same way “normal” people do, this characteristic cause people with these traits to overdo certain activities to achieve the desired feeling of pleasure. Linden gives an example: "In order to get to that same set point of pleasure that others would get to easily — maybe with two drinks at the bar and a laugh with friends — you need six drinks at the bar to get the same thing."

“Any one of us could be an addict at any time," Linden says. "Addiction is not fundamentally a moral failing — it's not a disease of weak-willed losers. When you look at the biology, the only model of addiction that makes sense is a disease-based model, and the only attitude towards addicts that makes sense is one of compassion."

Linden is a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the chief editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology.

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