Understanding Addiction: Why I Only Need Two Drinks and You Need Eight

If your mother was stressed during pregnancy, then you have a higher probability of being an addict when you grow up. 

The brain’s pleasure circuit is critically dependent upon a neurotransmitter called Dopamine.  And so if you carry a genetic variance that turns down the Dopamine function within your pleasure circuit, Dopamine receptors or enzymes that process or package Dopamine for release at the synapses, which are the connections between neurons, then your pleasure will be blunted.  

So for example, I go into a bar, I drink two drinks, I feel a little tipsy, I feel good, I hand out with my friends, I leave, I go home.  Someone who inherits a genetic variant where their Dopamine signaling is turned down, they go into the bar, they’ve got to have eight drinks to feel the same pleasure that I could get with two. 

So it really seems across addictions, not just for alcohol and drugs, but for gambling and sex and food that addicts are attempting to seek the same set point of pleasure through overindulgence that so-called normals can get with more moderate consumption. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image  courtesy of Shutterstock

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