Chapter 12: Dopamine Games – The Great DIMwit Addiction Hustle

by Charles Lyell on November 1, 2017

Even the NIDA director doesn’t understand addictions

“We can do much to reduce the shame and the stigma of drug addiction, once medical professionals, and we as a society, understand that addiction is not just ‘a disease of the brain,’ but one in which the circuits that enable us to exert free will no longer function as they should.”
– Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Ironically, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse doesn’t understand how a lack of free will is keeping her brain circuits from noticing or acknowledging the existence of the most common and destructive addictions (to money, belief systems, and Abraham Maslow’s psychological deficiency needs for safety/power, acceptance/approval/attention, and esteem/status).

Dr. Volkow doesn’t get it because she’s not interested in considering the possibility she’s suffering from a common but unacknowledged disorder that keeps her locked in denial about personal addictions to power, approval, and status.

That’s not to suggest the good doctor isn’t sincere, intelligent, or doing the best she can under the circumstances. It’s just that dopamine-induced madness (DIM) renders addicts neurologically incapable of grasping how a dearth of free will is a key symptom of all addictions, including safety, power, acceptance, approval, esteem, money, and belief systems.

You’re reading this because…

“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” – Voltaire

The key to survival turned out to be an array of dopamine-induced addictions that provided tested and proven advantages to progenitors who then passed their programming down to us. Essential addictions include breathing, eating, drinking, safety, and sex. Additionally, we’re here because acceptance, approval, and esteem addictions provided primates with invincible survival advantages that made it possible for gangs of inferior, inhumane, driven, unconscious, unquestioning, aggressive killers to triumph over humane individuals shackled with reason, consciousness, honesty, and disdain for murder.

Somewhere, somehow DIMwits attached so many negative connotations to the word addiction, the existence and significance of indispensable addictions got lost in the sauce and, instead of relying on a potentially helpful, unbiased, neutral noun (modified with adjectives such as healthy, unhealthy, beneficial, destructive, etc.), the word addiction was relegated to a shameful, demeaning, and pejorative label for some and ironic joke for others.

One result is the great DIMwit addiction hustle where A-word worshipers, choicers, jokers, and deniers hide behind pointless definitions and arguments that accomplish little more than demonstrate how the lack of free will keeps DIMwits oblivious to how the only thing they care about is maintaining dopamine flow.

While dueling hustlers employ deceptive means to convince themselves they vehemently disagree with like-mindless opponents, the end result is always the same – an unconscious, dishonest, confusing debate about what are and aren’t addictions.

So we have A-word worshipers, such as Dr. Volkow, who insist addictions should be narrowly defined and reserved for a few exalted dependencies, while choicers preach the gospels of will power and decisions, jokers quip about seemingly harmless obsessions, and deniers (the worst of the lot) insist substances and behaviors (including heroin, cocaine, and gambling) aren’t addictive and shouldn’t be faulted for destroying the lives of faulty individuals.

Doing The Addiction Hustle (TAH)

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
– Luke Jackson

Scratch the surface and hustlers turn out to be power, attention, esteem, belief system, and/or money addicts playing variations of the same dopamine game, The Addiction Hustle. Like all dopamine games, TAH isn’t a mind game, it’s a mindless game with one requirement — an unconscious commitment to self-deceptions, denials, and mindlessness.

Despite what might seem like conflicting approaches, the biggest difference between hustlers is how they attain power, attract attention, boost esteem, and/or fill bank accounts, to score the same dopamine squirts junkies, boozers, smokers, and gamblers trigger with heroine, alcohol, cigarettes, and bets.


“I am a Doctor. A.B… M.A… PH.D… ABMAPHID! Abmaphid has been variously described as a wasting disease of the frontal lobes, and as a wonder drug. It is actually both.” – Edward Albee

A-word worshipers fall into two main camps. The first are conveniently clueless addicts (such as Dr. Volkow) and recovering addicts turned counselors inflating a dopamine-inducing sense of status by passing themselves off as steadfast experts dedicated to studying the few true addictions worthy of attention. The second are credentialed fear mongers hyping books and careers by feeding hungry media outlets titillating headlines about the threat of pathologizing normal behaviors by indiscriminately applying the A-word. More times than not, professional doom and gloomers are feeding personal dopamine needs by either reinforcing their institutional significance or directly/indirectly pimping themselves out to insurance industry money and power addicts whose only concern is protecting profits, jobs, status, and dopamine flow.


“We must move in our recovery from one addiction to another for two major reasons: first, we have not recognized and treated the underlying addictive process, and second, we have not accurately isolated and focused upon the specific addictions.”- Anne Wilson Schaef

Hustlers who insist addiction is a choice are often recovering addicts who aren’t honest or smart enough to admit they’ve essentially swapped one dopamine trigger for another. Instead of drugs, they switch to satisfying insatiable cravings by glorifying esteem-inflating victories over personal dependencies. Victories so impressive (in the telling) they imbue victors with special powers to help, for a fee, weaker addicts find the strength to make the same bold choice to be addiction free.


“Now people hear a commercial for sour cream potato chips and rush out to buy, but now they call this free will.” – Chuck Palahniuk

While some go to great lengths to deny addictions, jokers never miss a chance to flaunt them. The difference is that acknowledging tainted addictions (e.g., drugs and gambling) comes with serious threats to approval, esteem, indulging, and dopamine flow whereas bragging about being addicted to shopping, social media, video games, and other acceptable behaviors begs attention, wins approval, inflates status, encourages indulging, and triggers dopamine while protecting dopamine flow by trivializing the seriousness of potentially dangerous obsessions. Oblivious to why, how, and that the jokes are on them, shopaholics laugh all the way to bankruptcy court, gamers play empty lives away, twits mindlessly tweet, while dumb smartphone addicts text themselves to accidental deaths, taking innocent victims with them.


“Ego has a voracious appetite, the more you feed it, the hungrier it gets.” – Nathaniel Bronner, Jr.

Deniers are, by far, the most self-deceptive, dangerous, haughtiest, and despicable of all addicts. Addiction deniers don’t care who their deceptions hurt, as long as they get the dopamine-triggering power, attention, status, and/or money they crave. The world’s preeminent addiction denier, Harvard’s Howard Schaffer, is a shameless power/esteem addict who proudly shills for gambling interests interested in seducing cash-strapped governors. By selling out to casino owners, Dr. Schaffer provides desperate politicians with a convenient shield to deny malfeasance. After all, how can governors be blamed for their states’ sudden increase in gambling related bankruptcies when an egomaniacal expert with Schaffer’s credentials insists their constituents are the ones responsible for losing fortunes, families, and futures?

Magicians call it misdirection

“A clinching legal argument first made in the landmark case Potato v. Potato.” – Stephen Colbert

Addiction is a powerful word that provides a lot more clout than any alternative, including habits, dependencies, obsessions, compulsions, cravings, needs, wants, or other euphemisms. Manufactured words and catchy phrases invariably lack punch.

By placing neurological needs first, game players muddy the waters, making it possible for the most common addicts to continue hiding in plain sight while pretending destructive addictions are normal, acceptable, and even enviable behaviors, customs, and rituals.

Arguing over what are and aren’t addictions is as absurd as letting children perish in a burning building because firefighters are too busy squabbling with arsonists over the fire’s cause.

We’re here because primitive ancestors were addicted to breathing, eating, drinking, sex, safety, acceptance, approval, and status. If we’re not here much longer it will be because more recent ancestors turned life-supporting dopamine-triggering addictions into life-threatening obsessions while adding a long list of unnatural addictions (to drugs, gambling, belief systems, acquiring, etc.).

In other words, we are the descendants of clever DIMwits playing dopamine games that make it possible to ignore the obvious, which is that the sheer number of seemingly unrelated problems plaguing our species is a sure sign something is inherently wrong. Why? Because acknowledging the magnitude and breadth of the crisis threatening our species’ future comes with the threat of looking into the root cause of what’s wrong. And what’s wrong is that DIMwits are suffering from comorbid brain disorders (addictions and dopamine-induced madness). The result is a perfect pandemic where unacknowledged addictions wreak havoc while DIM keeps sufferers, regardless of intelligence, education, credentials, titles, or expertise, conveniently oblivious to what’s going on. Not because the symptoms and signs aren’t self-evident to anyone capable of taking an honest look but because noticing the obvious poses a major threat to safety, power, esteem, acceptance/approval, and dopamine flow.

Which brings us back to the symptoms of all addictions: self-deception, denial, and the lack of free will keeping DIMwits from admitting to destructive addictive behaviors.

In a nutshell

“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” – Aldous Huxley

Everything we do, think, believe, dismiss, like, hate, accept, reject can be linked to one or more addictions. To put it another way, there are good, bad, helpful, harmful, logical, illogical, healthy, unhealthy, smart, foolish, life-sustaining, and life-threatening addictions. Unfortunately, DIMwits have managed to turn formerly helpful, logical, healthy, smart, and life-sustaining addictions into harmful, illogical, unhealthy, foolish, life-threatening obsessions. But the biggest problem, by far, is the widespread dishonesty caused by compulsive, dopamine-induced addictions.

As every drug counselor knows, when it comes to addictions, the first step to recovery is honesty.

Which might mean there’s little to no hope for DIMwits who are in the process of putting the kibosh on our species’ time on earth due to a preference for scoring gratuitous dopamine squirts (by pretending we are what we aren’t) over esteem and dopamine-threatening indications that we aren’t what we pretend to be.


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