pleasure circuits’ intended function has been disabl ed, and the body has lost its ability to produce feel-good rewards on its own. At this point, an 'addicted' person is compelled to use the substance not to get high, but just to feel normal — a state of anhedonia , or inability to feel pleasure via normal experiences 38 . Ultimately, repeated use of a dopamine generating “activity” results in tolerance. Withdrawal results in lower levels of dopamine. Continuous use is required to keep dopamine at normal levels, and even higher doses to get the “high” levels of initial use. And, as described on previous pages, this reaction doesn’t only occur when using drugs or alcohol… TaaL: Life didn’t evolve to be happy, or for any other reason. It just evolved. Pleasure is a set of reward mechanisms which shape behavior to seek more of an unexpectedly intense reward, because historically that led to better survival. Its’ brain works exactly the same way yours does, seeking stimulation rather than end results , because that’s the programmed gene agenda that worked in the past. Supernormal stimulus combined with abundance — for any species — can make any part of the evolved agenda a trap, because what feels good to a mammalian brain’s quasi-reptilian core is not always a good idea. The good news is that a sapient mind can simply avoid the entire implosion process of ratcheting to self- destruction. This doesn’t just mean not doing drugs nor compulsive gambling. It could mean entire societies letting go of the pursuit of escalating brain rewards to be happy with “enough.” Funny thing is, it’s easier to be happy that way, and as a bonus, your species can last a really long time instead of flaming out. Maximizing total long- term happiness is the payback for choosing sapience over the gene agenda. The Bottom Line: Our evolved brains are very vulnerable to addiction and habituation, and we have created substances and pursuits targeted for just this effect.
The Hedonic Ratchet “Happiness, whether consisting in pleasure or virtue, or both, is more often found with those who are highly cultivated in their minds and in their character, and have only a moderate share of external goods, than among those who possess external goods to a useless extent but are deficient in higher qualities.” Aristotle in “Politics”
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