Addicted to dopamine
We are now living in a world where through innovation, technology, our supply chain, COVID-disruption not withstanding, the internet and our devices are really at the touch of our fingers – we have access to all kinds of reinforcing substances and behaviours.
Everywhere you look people are overindulging, but that’s not to say it’s their fault. We have unprecedented 24/7 access to deliberately addictive, high-dopamine stimuli – drugs, food, news, gambling, shopping, gaming, sexting, Facebooking, YouTubing and tweeting. Our lives are saturated by our own dopamine and our culture encourages us to pursue it.
Speaking on her new book, Dopamine Nation, psychiatrist Dr Anna Lembke in conversation with the ABC’s Sana Qadar discusses the neuroscience of addiction and how we can find balance in a world flooded with these potent time-sapping (and often despair-inducing) lures.
While dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is vital for health and happiness, too much dopamine too often tips the balance towards misery. Lembke explains what new scientific discoveries can teach us about this relentless pursuit of pleasure, its relationship to pain and how this knowledge can inform our choices to make for more flourishing lives. She shares insights from her clients and their struggles to overcome these problems.
At a time when we are all vulnerable to compulsive overconsumption, both understanding the science and learning from the experiences of others can help us break our own dopamine addiction. It’s high time to pursue healthier pleasures: genuine contentment with self and connectedness to others.
Anna Lembke is the medical director of Stanford Addiction Medicine, program director for the Stanford Addiction Medicine Fellowship, and chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic. She is the recipient of numerous awards for outstanding research in mental illness, for excellence in teaching, and for clinical innovation in treatment. A clinician scholar, she has published more than a hundred peer reviewed papers, book chapters, and commentaries in prestigious outlets such as The New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA. She sits on the board of several American state and national addiction focused organisations and has testified before various committees in the United States House of Representatives and Senate.
Lembke also keeps an active speaking calendar and maintains a thriving clinical practice. Lembke recently appeared on the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, an unvarnished look at the impact of social media on our lives. Her newest book, Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence, an instant New York Times Bestseller, explores how to moderate compulsive overconsumption in a dopamine-overloaded world.
Sana Qadar is an award-winning podcaster and journalist whose work has featured on the ABC, BBC, SBS, Al Jazeera, and NPR to name a few. Sana hosts All in the Mind on ABC Radio National, and co-hosts the SBS podcast Eyes on Gilead, which won a 2019 Australian Podcast Award for Best Fancast.