Do we do anything that isn't rooted in addiction?

Submitted by freedom on
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It sort of seems that everything we do might be rooted in addiction. We might do not pleasurable things like work an unfulfilling job, but people do that to make money and get sex, drink, drugs, money, power, etc.

Young children are perhaps the largest group of non-addicts. They don't live at all like adults. What reward do they receive? What motivates them to do the things they do? I don't think it can be love because they do things for which they receive no love.

What does an adult world without addiction look like? Do we do the same things? Or does everything change? Can non-addicts function as well in a world of addicts as in a world on non-addicts?

How can aspiring non-addicts find other non-addicts to see how they see the world? It is perhaps of limited use to look to addicts as guides.

freedom wrote:Young children

[quote=freedom]Young children are perhaps the largest group of non-addicts. They don't live at all like adults. What reward do they receive? What motivates them to do the things they do? I don't think it can be love because they do things for which they receive no love. [/quote]

Isn't that because they have yet to go through puberty and "get the keys to the car"?

Perhaps. But we are all

Perhaps. But we are all children with children's needs and desires. Do you have to drive because you have the key? And just because we can and do drive, why does it seem we neglect all the other modes of living? Are we just reacting to addicts around us? I'm sitting in my school library. If I look up, everyone's cranking away on their computer. They might be wasting time (so might I), but one's mind naturally thinks it has to compete with their addict driven lifestyle. Perhaps my child doesn't want to compete, but it isn't sure what else to do. I'd venture that my mind is thinking more than many of the minds in the library, but not thinking in the addict driven direction. I am thinking in the way a child might dig in the dirt. It is exploratory thinking about the dirt at hand. It is kind of effortless and almost fun unlike whatever else I might do. Is my mental reward for my thinking different than the reward for doing what I "should" be doing? Or have I just swapped one addictive process for another?


In moments of silence, when my internal voice has been stilled, after I've allowed any emotions to subside, I am left with one thing, and it is love, and I'm not 'getting' it from anyone, it's just in me. Love of this kind isn't the same as 'receiving' love from another person. It is an inner glow of love, a sense that everything is beautiful. These moments, however brief, are the center of what Karezza/Tantra has revealed for me. The feeling didn't feel new the first time I most recently felt it, it feels as if it was *always* there, but covered up by all the feelings and thoughts we have all the time.

I think infants/children sense/feel/know love from just the joy of seeing and feeling/touching new things as a part of their discovery of life. They don't have words to think with, they can only observe, see, and feel.


Internal love alleviates the

Internal love alleviates the need for addiction? Does that mean less addictive societies have more internal love?

That still leaves the question of whether an internal lover can live in a loveless society. On the one hand, the love is internal so the outside world doesn't matter. On the other hand, the outside world can drain that love. Or is that love boundless? Do we perhaps evolve from children due the draining of our internal love reserves? If so, that suggests that there is a societal component in that we are not learning how to refill the love battery while living as adults.

I think that love reduces

I think that love reduces the attractiveness of the 'high' of the things we get addicted to. I don't know the answer about societies- I suppose that less addictive societies are that way because people have the time to get lots of oxytocin from positive interactions with their friends, families and partners.

I assume I get a lot of oxytocin, since my partner and I spend a lot of time together in positive interactions. My kids are grown, so it's just us and our beloved Mr. Beans (our cat) at home. We also work in the same office, and carpool and lunch together almost everyday.

I think our impersonal and demanding interactions in our over-extended society can cloud that love - and prevent us from knowing it's there, waiting for us. I still think it's there, always available, we are just not tapping into it enough to prevent us from being sucked in by the crap going on around us.


it spreads

When you have deep, real internal love...the external un-loving world doesn't drain it from you. You actually inspire it in them. It's the same with high and low levels of consciouness. If you're more aware and conscious, people will slowly raise their level of consciousness to your level as they spend time with you. Not because you've "convinced" them in any way, but rather because your inner peace is so palpable to them that they will naturally look to you and your way of being as a possible solution to their own internal pain.


I love what you wrote

And I agree.

I am so drawn to people with positive energy around them. And I don't allow the external unloving world to interfere with my love is inside me and it will stay there as long as I don't succumb to doubting it.


Well, kids tend to do more

Well, kids tend to do more things just for the joy of it, so they need less strong numbing stuff than addicts do - mamas milk or pacifier or thumb does good enough job. I think untill we relearn to feel free and do things we love to do, we will always need to pacify ourselves with some sort of addictions.

You see addiction as a form

You see addiction as a form of acting out inner discontentment? How does one reconcile that with the shame-addiction model? Do we feel shame in some sense for our discontentment? Or do we have to address shame and discontentment separately?

All motivation runs on dopamine,

whether you are an adult, child, rat, or fruit fly. Central to all likes and dislikes is dopamine and the reward circuitry. Not only attraction, but repulsion, or aversion, occurs in the reward circuitry.

Claerly, a whole lot more is to be learned concerning the neurobiology of motivation. However, the limbic brain is set up to like or dislike everything. Attraction-aversion = our basic mode of operation.

Reward is separate from motivation. In other words, dopamine is NOT the final reward for food, orgasm, and probably drugs. The final reward involves the release of opioids in the reward circuitry.

In my opinion..

I think the word 'addiction' is thrown around here a bit too often. Granted, in the sense that one's attachment to pornography can be driven by brain chemistry, you could consider it an addiction... but in my opinion, many of the stories I've read seem to be more telling behavioral conditioning (e.g. Pavlov's dogs) or manifestations of a compulsive disorder. In both cases, 'addiction' presents itself as a side effect of a larger underlying condition. I know everyone is different and a genuine chemical addiction to neurotransmitters may indeed be occurring in some cases; however, I think the manner in which 'addiction' is wantonly used on this site (essentially a blanket diagnosis for everyone's condition) can be both confusing and misleading. Each individual case is distinctly unique with complexities rooted in formative/adolescent experience. I'd wager everyone here has a reason in their past (whether they are conscious of it or not) for their behavior and subsequent 'addiction.' Many of the conditions described by users here are symptomatic of normal brains functioning as 'programmed' (i.e. ograsms are good, we are wired to like them) under abnormal circumstances (i.e. little parental supervision during puberty + easily accessed hardcore pornography).

Keeping that in mind, my answer to your question is as such: Kind of, but not quite.

To follow the old adage, we are indeed creatures of habit. It is true that our day to day behavior is driven by routine, with some of it being reward-driven and some of it not. But be careful not mistake positively reinforced behavioral patterns for addiction. It is no different than training a dog to perform a trick by giving it food. It is the promise of receiving a treat which makes them repeat the action, much in the same way the promise of a pay check keeps people going to work from week to week. In this context, behavior in both cases is instinctually driven by the need to survive (i.e. the dog performs the trick to ensure it is able to eat and you go to work to ensure you and/or your family can eat). Sexual release is similarly hardwired into the brain at a very basic level and a large number of factors govern an individual's ability to cope with today's hyper-stimuli. Behavioral conditioning and genuine addiction share many symptoms on the surface, but I think there are subtle (yet fundamental) differences underlying the actions and thought processes which drive each.

Anyhow, Just my .02 :)

That's a good question and

That's a good question and I'm not entirely sure it has am easy or clear answer. The line between the two is very thin and often blurred. Several studies have used positive (and negative) reinforcement in lab animals as a means to explain both learned and addictive behavior.

The classic example being: a rat is placed in a cage with two bars on the floor. When pressed, one bar drops food into the cage and the other delivers an electric shock. Through reinforcement the rat will learn to press the bar that delivers food and avoid the one that shocks it. Obviously, the positive reinforcer is food and the negative is receiving a shock.

A similar experiment has been done where the rat is hooked to an IV and when the bar is pressed an addictive drug (I believe it was morphine) is injected into the rat. The study shows how chemical and physical dependence/tolerance develops through behavioral reinforcement. If I recall correctly, the rat continued pressing the bar even after it was electrified.

So in the first example, the rat continues to press the good bar to receive food, while avoiding the bar that shocks them. This is a case of learned behavior based on prior experience and not one of addiction. The second example is one of physical and chemical dependence; where behavior is reinforced positively by the drug, negatively by withdrawal and in addition to chemical imbalance. In these examples a distinction is very clear between each scenario, but they are also controlled with a limited amount of variables. Human psychology is astoundingly more complex and the reasons for our behavior is seldom black and white.

I guess the point of my original reply was that I think too many people on the forums mistakenly overemphasize addiction when describing their problem and often do not distinguish between addictive behavior and actual addiction. By addictive behavior I mean, 'addiction' is merely the mechanism (reinforcing stimulus) driving a behavior that was learned during adolescence and in a lot of cases (probably) to cope with some situation (lack of love, attention, etc..).

Your distinction isn't so

Your distinction isn't so clear. Food is nothing more than a necessary drug with both physical and chemical dependence. If all drug addicts go there by force or chance it might be one thing, but most got there by the need to cope with some situation.

Even if there remains a distinction that makes us less than say drug addicts, it doesn't mean that the treatment might be very similar. There could be many pathways to addiction, but once one is behaviorally or drug addicted, the distinction becomes very blurred. I like the description of porn as a digital drug. In some ways we may be even pure addicts because we're using a natural brain pathway. The drug addict is short circuiting natural pathways to achieve a result.

I mean in the most basic

I mean in the most basic sense all of life is (and is controlled by) chemistry at some level. I can see a clear distinction in my mind between the two, but I can't seem to adequately phrase it in a way that conveys what I mean, which leads to my point seeming more and more convoluted as I try, haha. It just seems to me as though addiction is being blamed by many as the root of their problems when it appears to be more like a skewing of perception after years of reinforcing an instinctual behavior. The two scenarios are very similar and start to blur, but personally they just do not seem the same to me.

I am not trying to downplay anyone's experiences or struggles and I think it's awesome that not only are the people here trying to correct damaging behaviors (using science!) but also that there is a place like this for everyone to share their experiences and offer support. Hell, I am here for the same reason as everyone else. But, I've dealt with a very similar scenario in the past and was completely shocked/distraught when I learned that fixing what appeared to be the root of all my problems actually fixed nothing (in short: I was morbidly obese, lost a vast amount of weight really fast thinking being fat was causing all of my grief, when in reality it was only the outer most layer of some other problem). In addition, I have also struggled with taking prescription amphetamines (adderall).

The point of telling this is, I ate to cope with the stresses and fixing it simply took correcting my behavior. Conversely, I have tried multiple times to stop taking adderall even though I actually need it, as I quickly realized the hold amphetamines assert over you keeps abuse one pill away at all times. Anyway, one week after changing my eating habits (and indeed going without porn) feels absolutely nothing like the hell that is amphetamine withdrawal. My current dealings with porn addiction just feel so highly analogous to my experience with weight loss that when I compare it to an actual drug dependence, I can't justify it as being an addiction.

The take away message I suppose would be that, while changing troublesome behavior is a wonderful thing (and I applaud everyone on their efforts), everyone should remain cognisant of underlying issues/conditions that they may have mistook for addiction, because though some of their symptoms (ED, for example) may be remedied those buried problems may find new ways of manifesting themselves!

I see your point about

I see your point about blaming. I don't blame the addictive attributes of porn for my problem. I acknowledge them. Indeed it is all the factors that led to that initial and ongoing susceptibility that matter to getting out of the cycle. Luckily, breaking the cycle helps one address those factors with time.

I don't think just because a drug addiction has an alternate level of intensity to withdrawal that it means it is addiction while what is going on here is behavioral. Both are in some sense behavioral and addiction based. The only way drug addiction would not be behavioral is if someone forced you to take drugs until you became physically dependent. Even then there might be behavioral aspects that creep in when trying to quit.

I think it very helpful to knock down the us (non-addicts) and them (addicts) model. We are close enough to addicts to no longer maintain a view of us and them that the majority of the population uses to shame addicts. It is therapeutic to accept that humans get themselves into these situations and can get themselves out. I'm curious as to how you justify to yourself your own internal us (weight and porn) and them (adderall) model.

I suppose it comes down to a

I suppose it comes down to a difference in view points? I don't discredit anyone else's by any stretch. I used to be a psychology student and got in debates with more than one professor over behavioral and addiction, the distinction just seems very clear to me despite the sharing of many characteristics. I mean technically you can classify anything routine-based actions as behavior, so really I suppose we're just beating a dead horse at this point.

I wholeheartedly agree with acknowledging my own problems. For the longest time I tried to hide them away and ignore them, yet that only made things worse. I don't feel watching porn is inherently bad and thus don't blame it for any of the problems I associate with my having watched it. Instead I credit my own actions and recognize they stem from my own misguided behavior.

Regarding your us and them scenario with respect to my own struggles I'd have to break it down as such:

Weight loss - I would place myself in the us category, and recognize a very clear distinction between most people who choose to remain obese (while complaining that they are unable to do anything). Very few people actually have disorders that govern their weight, thus the blame remains solely on their own shoulders. Losing weight is not hard, sure relearning what food is for and balancing proper nutrition and exercise with ones learned lifestyle is daunting and uncomfortable, but it's very short-lived and not exactly difficult.

Adderall - This is a lesser of two evils situation. On the one hand I am fully aware of how harmful/dangerous/addictive prolonged usage of amphetamines (or any stimulant) can be, yet if I do not take it I literally cannot function, which isn't fear of withdrawal or dependence talking. I started on 10mg twice a day and two years later I am at 20mg three times a day, just to get a mildly similar effect to what I felt when I first started taking it. Honestly, taking what I am now is not something I like doing. I'd say I am somewhere in the middle, leaning towards them. I am sure most people who self-administer their own prescription of adderall would probably place themselves similarly. This drug is pretty terrifying at times.

Porn - I never viewed porn viewing as something bad in the past, yet my viewing and indeed compulsion to watch it became infinitely more destructive once I started adderall, which directly interferes with dopamine levels. I recognize ED problems with girls in real life stems indirectly through porn usage and directly from my limited-to-nonexistent contact with women during my formative years / early 20s (due to being obese and related insecurities), which left porn as my only sexual outlet. This places me in the same boat as everyone here in that I learned to equate arousal with porn and masturbation. So in that respect, I would probably place myself somewhere in the middle. Probably closer to us, given my inclination to say that porn itself is not the cause of the behavior (therefore not really an addiction in the true sense of the word).

I never intend for my replies to be so lengthy, lol. My apologies!

Several comments on addiction:

I think the terms compulsion and behavioral addictions should be tossed aside. Why? Because if one’s behavior (such as overeating, using porn, or taking drugs) is difficult to regulate, one’s brain has changed. It’s that simple. Whether a professional calls it a behavioral addiction, a compulsion, or just plain ‘an addiction,’ the brain changes are the same. Attempting to use different terms for a single physiological process just clouds the issue. I say that as a physiology teacher.

The process involves multiple, yet consistent, changes in brain. One major change that happens in the addicted brain is the decline of dopamine receptors (D2).
This reduction of dopamine receptors occurs with drugs, but also occurs with food, gambling and even video games. Even though it hasn’t yet been studied, I have no doubt that internet porn causes these same changes. For example, If someone has ED problems due to watching porn, then one has a decline in D2 receptors. All of this is spelled out in our articles focusing on D2 receptors and addiction. It’s good to start with “Intoxicating Behaviors.”

Intoxicating Behaviors: 300 Vaginas = A Lot of Dopamine:

Has Evolution Trained Our Brains to Gorge on Food and Sex?

Protect Your Appetite for Pleasure

One important fact to remember is that the reward circuitry was designed to light up for food, sex and bonding (natural reinforcers) – not for drugs and alcohol.
Drugs and alcohol are poor substitutes for natural reinforcers. People think that cocaine or meth or nicotine is the most universally addictive.
No, they are not – that prize goes to natural reinforcers.

In both humans and rats only about 15% of drug users ever become addicted. Study after study shows this. Guess who usually gets addicted? Those with low D2 receptors. Those with normal levels of D2 have an aversion to drugs – it feels crappy to them. Or it may give them a buzz, but it’s not worth the hangover.

However, not so with natural reinforcers - nearly 100% of rats get addicted highly palatable food (read the articles). They get addicted when they have unlimited access to junk food. The eating of the junk food CAUSES a drop in D2 receptors, urging them to eat more and more because their brains are numbed to pleasure.

Think about it –most western countries have rates of 65% for overweight, and 30% or so for obesity. We would be close to 100% like the rats if it weren’t for our larger brains saying, “I don’t want to be fat.” Our larger brains may want to put us on diets, make us exercise, or get us counting calories, while our reward circuitry screams for Twinkies.

Internet porn, unlike drugs or even food, can be more powerful because, well… it’s sex, and:
1) Unlike drugs or food, one can never reach satiation. You can watch for hours on end. Edge for hours on end.
2) Unlike drugs, there is no aversion. In other words, a lot of people don’t like how drugs feel – but most every guy enjoys sexual feelings.
3) Unlike drugs one can escalate with endless novelty, and with ever more shocking porn.

Internet porn addiction is a true addiction: tolerance, escalation and withdrawal, along with the reward circuitry changes that mimic drug abuse. As mentioned, any inability to be aroused by normal stimuli - a girl - means your brain has been altered

Animals do like to gamble

Gambling is simply taking risk for a bigger payout. Better than expected rewards jack up dopamine. So it appears all animals do it, in one form or another. Two articles and one video below:

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

A gambling experiment has shown that pigeons like a flutter as much as humans – and that taking big risks in the hope of high rewards may be a fundamental part of our biological nature.

Scientists have shown that when faced with a choice between a series of safe, small but guaranteed rewards or a single much larger reward that is less likely to happen, pigeons will almost always choose to gamble.

The findings were a surprise to researchers, because Darwinist theory would predict that the birds would be honed by natural selection to act in a way that optimises the way they behave, rather than allowing them to take unnecessary risks that are going to leave them worse off in the long term.

However, the scientists believe that if pigeons have an innate predisposition to gamble then this could be a widespread trait across the animal kingdom – and might even explain why so many people like to gamble, even though they know they are likely to be worse off over time.

The experiment on pigeons indicates that there may be a fundamental biological reason for gambling rather than explanations based on purely human-centred preferences, such as the idea that gambling is practised because it is enjoyable and entertaining, said Thomas Zentall, professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

"The entertainment value of gambling shouldn't really play a role with pigeons, yet we have found that most pigeons will choose to gamble if they are given a choice," said Professor Zentall. "This seems to suggest that there is some fundamental behavioural system at work. If pigeons do it, it allows us to rule out other things that have been suggested to explain why people like to gamble so much, such as its entertainment value."

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, involved giving pigeons a choice between pecking at a coloured light that always gave them access to three food pellets, or pecking at a different coloured light that gave them two pellets but the gambling opportunity of "winning" 10 pellets 20 per cent of the time, or zero pellets 80 per cent of the time.

Overall, the best strategy for optimal foraging would be to choose the three-pellet route. But eight out of 10 pigeons tested consistently chose to gamble – even though they were worse off at the end of the experiment than if they had played safe.

"The main message is that there is a behavioural, biological mechanism at work that encourages pigeons, and possibly many other organisms, to gamble even though this was a sub-optimal strategy," said Professor Zentall.

Or what about rats

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News

Rats are able to play the odds in a "gambling task" designed by scientists to test the biology of addiction.

In the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers describe how the rodents developed a "strategy" in a timed task where they make choices to earn treats.

The rodents avoided high-reward options because these carried high risks of punishment - their sugar pellet supply being cut off for a period.

This decision-making task provides an animal model to study neuropsychiatry.
During the task, which lasted for 30 minutes, rats were given four choices - in the form of holes to investigate.

Nosing each of these holes triggered either the delivery of tasty sugar pellets or a "punishing time-out period" during which rewards could not be earned.

But high-reward holes - those that delivered more pellets at once - also carried the bigger risk of triggering longer periods of punishment.

And rats quickly learned an "optimal strategy" - earning more pellets over the duration of the task by choosing the holes with smaller gains and smaller penalties.
Weigh the odds

One of the authors of the study, Trevor Robbins from the University of Cambridge, explained that the rat task was based on an existing clinical experiment called the "Iowa gambling test".
"This is a game designed to test decision-making in patients who have suffered damage to the frontal lobes of their brains," he explained.

"This type of injury is unusual - it doesn't really affect intellect, but patients become extremely compulsive, making disastrous decisions that can have serious impacts on their lives."

In the Iowa gambling test, participants choose cards from four decks. With each card they draw, they either win or lose money, and the object of the game is to win as much as possible.

Some of the decks are associated with small gains and small losses, and will earn a player more money over time.

Certain "bad decks" carry higher rewards, but also incur larger penalties, and will lose money over time.

Like the rat in its quest for sugary rewards, if the player adopts an "optimal strategy", they will make a profit.

"But patients with frontal lobe damage just don't learn from their experiences", said Professor Robbins. They continue to choose from the "bad decks".

To further test their model, the team looked at how the rats' performance was affected by drugs that altered levels of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin.

These are signalling chemicals in the brain that are both thought to play an important role in addiction.

The rats were given a drug that reduced the amount of serotonin circulating in their brains. This impaired their ability to make good decisions, and to successfully play the odds.

"Not only have we seen that our rats will gamble, but we've also been able to modulate that behaviour," lead author Catharine Winstanley from the University of British Columbia told BBC News.

"This coincides with data we've seen from pathological gamblers, who have been shown to have lower levels of serotonin in their brains," she added.

"We also found that we could make our rats better gamblers by giving them a dopamine receptor antagonist - a drug that reduces the effects of the neurotransmitter dopamine."

This also ties in neatly with clinical findings in humans. "Treatments for Parkinson's disease [which increase dopamine to aid movement] have been seen to induce pathological gambling," said Dr Winstanley.

"The hope is that this will stimulate interest in studying gambling."

Marc Potenza, a psychiatrist from Yale University who specialises in addiction and problem gambling, described the new test as a "significant step forward" that could eventually lead to new therapies to treat gambling behaviour.

"This is truly translational. It's a rat model that is mimicking human behaviour," said Professor Potenza.

"There are currently no approved treatments for pathological gambling or any of the other formal impulse control disorders. Having good animal models is vital in their development."

And if you have any doubt about apes and gambling, here's definitive proof

Lemurs on the bell curve - at the far end for gambling

So it appears they don't like to gamble. I'm not a lemur expert, but they evolved, isolated, for 65 million years on madagascar. So it's not surprising that natural selection would lead to a diference or two from other mammals. I guess gambling not a good idea on Madagascar. So yes they are wired different for that trait.
But as the article said, they love sweets, as do a lot of mammals. But I'm sure their are exceptions to this - such as koala bears eating only eucalyptus leaves. They may not care for sweet tastes.

On balance and lemurs, I think you may be overlooking one of our major tenets: Our current environment is significantly different from 100,000 years ago, which often leads to serious imbalances.

Today' environment: loss of tribes having to go to school, work; living in isolated boxes; worrying about money, future, past, our life purpose, retirement, war, the economy, on & on;
Junk food; drugs & alcohol; caffeine; nicotine; Internet porn; over-stimulation from a thousand sources; pollution; lack of exercise……on & on.

So stick a lemur in a cage without it’s tribe and it will be far more prone to getting addicted – if it could. For example:
Environment and addiction - The Rat Park

I just found it interesting

I just found it interesting that lemurs are somehow different. Some humans don't like gambling too.

I wonder how much we could change in our environment to make it more suited to the brains we've got.

Hey, don't be a downer

Hey, don't be a downer Wink Change is very possible. It happens in little ways at visionary companies, schools, etc. I don't think the current world is incompatible with our brains, but rather has not acknowledged the brain's needs. Fighting the brain is like wearing two left shoes or maybe like wearing shoes at all.