Healthy people extract a lot of pleasure from small dopamine hits, such as a bite of a tasty apple or a few hours at a casino. For dopamine addicts there is no pleasure, there is only the constant pain of dopamine withdrawal that keeps food addicts ingesting excessive quantities of unhealthy foods that they don’t even taste and gambling addicts losing the rent money in desperate attempts to end the withdrawal.
Most dopamine addicts mistakenly consider themselves “happy” when they’ve scored enough of their drug of choice to temporarily keep them from feeling miserable. Alcoholics use booze to put out the pain, safety addicts use scapegoating and guns, peer-approval addicts join gangs, fraternities, and religions, esteem addicts brag, achieve, and accumulate status symbols.
Our species is on the brink of self-annihilation because food, meat, sex, safety, peer-approval, and esteem addicts experience the same withdrawal as heroin addicts. Heroin addicts will do anything to keep from experiencing withdrawal and so will most other late-stage dopamine addicts. Addicts are addicts and addicts lie, cheat, steal, kill, and deny what they’re doing and what they’ve done to support their insatiable habits in order to avoid the pain of withdrawal. The key difference is that the immense group of safety, peer-approval, and esteem addicts who get away with denying that their behaviors aren’t symptoms of addictions do a lot more damage than the small group of hard drug users who can’t get away with pretending that shooting, snorting, and swallowing their favorite drugs aren’t symptoms of their addictions.
As any honest, recovering drug addict can tell you, the first and hardest step to recovery is to give up the denial and admit to being addicted. Most addicts avoid this crucial first step because giving up what they crave comes with the pain of withdrawal. As long as a majority of psychological dopamine addicts continue to get away with passing off addictions as “normal, acceptable, and expected” behaviors, hundreds of millions of addicts will continue to support one another’s commitment to avoid the pain of withdrawal.
Want to know what dopamine withdrawal feels like?
- think about someone you truly dislike
- admit to the biggest mistake you’ve ever made
- remember how you felt the last time you were embarrassed
- recall how you reacted the last time an aggressive driver cut you off
- read The Perfect Pandemic