Dopamine: The Molecule of Addiction (Your Brain On Porn)

dopamine, the molecule of addiction taken from your brain on porn series
When you screw with your motivation, you screw with your life.

Dopamine is a chemical responsible for desire and motivation. Dopamine influences our “want-to” in life. Without desire in life, why would we ever get out of bed? Go to school or work? Try to build connections with people and make a difference in the world? Even eat or drink? The truth is that many people lack the desire to do all of these things. Human motivation is complex; whenever we lack motivation in life, we should take a holistic approach, making improvements in areas like diet, nutrition, exercise, meditation, relationships, spirituality, and the like. That said, one of the surest and fastest ways to wreck our dopamine levels it to engage in addictive activities, like porn and masturbation, that supply instant gratification at will.

Today, I’ve transcribed a short clip that clearly and vividly breaks down the mechanics of dopamine. The author concludes, after analyzing several lab studies involving rats, that dopamine gives you that positive outlook, [that] good attitude, keeps you motivated, [and] keeps you happy. Dopamine is not something we want out of balance because it will increase the disorder present in our lives.

The video is short, graphically illustrated, and easy to follow, so I encourage you to check it out, in addition to the transcript. If you’re like me, you may be asking yourself, “Why didn’t they teach us this stuff in school?”

Greedy people are never satisfied that they have enough. They’re like sharks that spend their entire life hunting and consuming. All the oceans in the world can’t satisfy these eating machines.

Frank Sonnenberg

Transcript:

Here’s the normal pattern of dopamine release. It looks something like a rollercoaster because in biology what goes up must come down. It can be food, sex, or even water when you’re thirsty.

So, let’s say your hungry. Dopamine starts rising. Then you think about a burger, and it rises more. When the burger is sizzling, dopamine is going way up. It peaks right about your first bite, then you take some more bites and it starts to drop off. And, finally, it drops back down to normal levels and you’re full.

This graph could also represent masturbating or having sex, and the peak would be right about at orgasm. However, I really want to point out that the experience of orgasm is probably driven by other neurochemicals called opiates, not dopamine.

So, dopamine drives you toward orgasm, but the feeling of orgasm arises from something else. The rise of dopamine levels can also represent anything new or novel, because dopamine loves novelty. A new car. A just-released movie. The latest gadget. We’re all hooked on dopamine. You can have a spike of dopamine just by ordering dessert. Even though you haven’t finished what’s on your place, the dessert is something new. In fact, dopamine surging in your rewards circuity can override your feelings of what’s called satiety, or fullness, regardless of what your rational brain may think about overeating or even watching porn.

As with everything new, the thrill fades and dopamine levels drop. Now back to the Coolidge Effect. So, dopamine is what is behind the Coolidge Effect [biological phenomenon where males exhibit renewed interest whenever a new female is introduced]. If you look at our little graph here. We have female rat #1, female rat #2, and dopamine level. What is happening is the reward circuity of the male is squirting less and less dopamine with each copulation with female #1, and then eventually, the male can no longer copulate because there’s not enough dopamine. Dopamine is behind libido.

Then you drop in female #2. The male gets another squirt of dopamine. It surges his libido, and he goes back to work. This is what’s behind the Coolidge Effect, and it’s also why you click on new videos while you’re watching porn—to get another big squirt of dopamine with something novel.

Let’s give another nickname to dopamine. Let’s call it the molecule of addiction. It’s because changes in your brain that lead to addiction are caused by changes in dopamine levels. Cocaine. Alcohol. Nicotine. They all feel different, but all of them flood the reward circuitry with dopamine. All addictive chemicals and activities raise dopamine levels. It’s what makes them potentially addictive. Of course, you need continued use of the addictive substance or activity to cause physical changes that lead to addiction.

Here’s an odd thing. We’ve mentioned it before. Dopamine is released in response to expectations, rather than actual levels of pleasure. It’s the drive to get it. It’s the craving. But, as I mentioned, the actual pleasure of eating or orgasm is probably opioids. Those are morphine-like chemicals being released in the brain. Dopamine is wanting it. Opiates are liking it. Addictions are basically chasing after dopamine, wanting more, but liking it less.

Speaking of wanting and the power of the reward circuitry, here’s an experiment. We have a rat and you see there’s a wire, and then there’s electrode that’s actually going to the reward circuitry of the rat. And the rat has his little paw on a lever, and whenever it hits that lever, it sends just enough electricity to the reward circuitry to stimulate it.

Now what will happen is this rat will just keep hitting the lever, and hitting the lever thousands of times an hour until it drops. It won’t stop to eat, sleep, or have sex, or even take care of the pups. It will give up everything just to press that lever. As we know, this behavior is not unlike some serious drug addicts.

Here’s another experiment. They take the same rat, and they have an electric grid between the lever and the rat, so the rat has to feel painful shock in its little paws to go over to the lever and press it. Well, the rat will actually cross the bridge and endure the shock. But if you take a rat, and put an electric grid between them and food, they will not cross the electric grid. They will not undergo shocks to eat food. They would rather starve.

Here’s another experiment to show the power of dopamine in your reward circuitry. If you take rats and block their dopamine, they have absolutely no motivation, to not even eat. They won’t walk over to the food dish, and they’ll starve to death. They still like food. If you drop food into their mouths, they eat it and show little rat smiles. They just have no motivation to go get it. They lie around. They won’t have sex, either. The male rats show no signs of libido.

The key point is you need the right level of dopamine to function normally. It does lots of important jobs. Dopamine gives you that positive outlook, good attitude, keeps you motivated, keeps you happy. Incidentally, many psychological problems involve dopamine imbalances, including addictions.

Author: Cornelius

I’m a 20-something year old from the American Midwest passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of our lives.

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