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Expecting the High From Addiction
October 16, 2015
There is an ideology; we should do our work without any expectation. Living with this ideology sounds good but reality is different. Expectation is what motivates us, an infant suckles with the expectation of getting milk, students study with the expectation of doing well in exam, adult exercises with the expectation of good health, shopaholic buys the thing with the expectation that it will make their life better etc. Our whole life is moving around the expectation. This goes back to millions of years ago, when our poor great great grandparents used to live in jungle, they had to go through long struggle before finally finding food and eating it, they (especially male one) had to search for possible mating partner, then fight with other possible rival males and convince the female, it was hard and sometimes even deadly task. These tasks had to be done with the expectation of finding better food or having better sex in order to keep motivation and desire strong. But the major hero behind this all is dopamine; dopamine is released when we expect something good. More the expectation is promising and strong, higher the release of dopamine and hence the task gets more motivating and more appealing.
On the other hand it also works in opposite way, dopamine is also released when we expect something bad is going to happen, in order to motivate us to avoid it. Like, when you are threatened with punishment for your negligence in your tasks, then you will get good motivation or desire to focus at your work. This is because of dopamine which gets released, so that you can focus well in your work and hence reduce the chance of punishment. This makes sense why we get the motivation to avoid risk, especially when gambler is motivated to reduce risk, due to release of dopamine.
But dopamine doesn’t always works for our benefit. It also gets released while pursuing the addicted behavior done with the expectation of getting next better and stronger high. That’s why it makes sense why addict go so far to pursue his behavior. An alcoholic won’t miss to go to pub for drinking, no matter how far the pub is or how expensive the alcohol is. An addict online chatter or porn user sometimes spends hours and hours just for searching right chatting partner or content over the internet to get turned on. If you are an addict, then you might have noticed how far you have went just to pursue your addicting habit like leaving decent job because you can’t smoke there, cheating your loved one for getting next high, skipping important moments like exam, interview, meeting with loved ones etc in order to pursue your addiction. These all motivation and strong desire are the result of dopamine.
One important thing to notice is more you expect the more motivated you will get. I believe everyone who is reading this have faced the exams at some point of their life. There are typically two types of students, one who get good marks and one who get bad. Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter which types you are in. Those students who get bad marks, expect nothing or very less from exam, hence they gets less motivation and they cannot concentrate in their study due to release of low amount of dopamine. But those students who get good marks expects not only best marks but also recognition, respects, enrollment in best colleges or job in the best companies with the help of marks obtained from exam, etc. Since they are expecting more from exam, their brain will comparatively release large amount of dopamine than the student who expect less, hence they get good motivation and concentration while studying. Not only this, those students who get good marks are afraid of getting less marks and expect that it will cause them to get punishment, lose status and respects among teachers and peers, hence further dopamine is released inorder to motivate the student to avoid this types risky situation, this further boosts their concentration in study. On the other hand, those students who get bad marks have always been getting bad marks and are facing punishment or bad marks from earlier, so they don’t care about what other will think neither they are threatened of getting punishment or bad marks, hence less dopamine is released.
Expectation Increases but Reward Decreases:
So, you bought a packet of cigarette or bag full of alcohol, thinking more is always better. You have an expectation more cigarettes or more alcohol will always brings more reward. But this is not the case, it’s something like buying more sweet thinking it will give more satisfaction or buying more self help books or more gadgets thinking it will make us more better and productive person. Here we have a very high expectation that more sweet will give extremely sweet taste and make us feel so much better, but this isn’t the case, at some point our taste buds gets numbed and we stop experiencing sweetness and hence sweet becomes more distasteful as we engulf each next sweet. We have an expectation reading more books or having more gadgets makes us better, so we buy it, but hardly read even a single book or use the gadget properly, but any way we waste our hard earned money.
Same thing happens to addict, he expect very strong high, so he buy and keeps on consuming more cigarette or alcohol, thinking it will give him next level of pleasure. As his expectation is based on the exaggerated high he used to experience in beginning days, but due to rise in tolerance level he hardly experiences the expected result. As your next sweet becomes more distasteful than previous one, similarly more the addict consumes the addicting substance he gets lesser pleasure from it, but keeps on expecting better and greater high. So, addict smoker, alcohol, druggist or other form of addict don’t actually get the expected result but keeps on indulging in it with the expectation of better high till he/she collapses with overdose or get numbed.
Desire for Pleasure Becomes Compulsion:
Over time the body of addict becomes extremely dependent upon addiction, and dopamine stops getting released during normal activity which used to be interesting or motivating in the past. Hence, addict will experience withdrawal symptoms like shaking of hand, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, lack of motivation, lack of co-ordination of brain and body, fatigue etc. At the end, search for pleasure becomes liking, wanting, desire and hence compulsion. As a result, one needs to get involved in addicting habit not to get high but just to feel normal.
If you have read upto here, then you might think, if addiction is based on our instincts and genetic programming, then it must be worthless to fight against it. Pardon me please, but I think you are going in wrong direction. We are human that’s what makes us different from those animals which are still living in the same ways they used to live thousands of years ago. We can easily adapt according to our environment, we can do the things that is good for us and our species rather than just following those instincts. But an animal cannot ignore his instincts, a bird cannot resist its instinct to travel during seasonal change no matter how hard the situation is, an animal cannot remain faithful to his partner or ignore the quick reward against the better reward in future, but we human can. We can override our instincts by forming good habits and developing self control.
Since addiction creates compulsion and distorts our thinking and decision making skill. But also I don’t think it’s a good idea to easily give someone excuse of their big mistakes like abuse, theft, robbery or murders. We can hear some celebrity abusing child, doing drunk driving and killing people, doing wrong things under drugs and hence admitting being addict in the court. Well they should be responsible of their behavior and should have searched medical help or tried to control it within time before it had become dangerous to oneself or others around them.