David Linden goes on a quest in his new book, The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good, to get to the root of the brain’s relationship with pleasure. Linden has a long list of experience with the physiology behind addiction including being a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neurophysiology.
Linden explains in a recent radio interview that addicts have a gene causing them to release less of the feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain known as dopamine. This leads to a dulled sense of pleasure, which can cause individuals to seek out activities that will increase available dopamine. Drugs and alcohol are one method to achieve a more pleasurable frame of mind for these individuals. However, because they are starting off at a disadvantage, they need to indulge in more of a particular substance than the average person to feel the same effect.
Says Linden continues: “In order to get to that same set point of pleasure that others would get to easily — maybe with two drinks at the bar and a laugh with friends — you need six drinks at the bar to get the same thing.”
Linden believes that understanding the science of pleasure will help to achieve better, faster, more effective rehabilitation for addicts. With this knowledge, prevention may be possible as well because it is not only genetics that creates an individual’s hardwiring for pleasure, but stress and environmental factors that begin while still in utero. This combination of factors could lead anyone down a path of addiction if the right circumstances present themselves.
Linden states, “When you look at the biology, the only model of addiction that makes sense is a disease-based model, and the only attitude towards addicts that makes sense is one of compassion.”
Linden’s point that addicts are not just weak-willed individuals in need of discipline is backed up by the neurophysiology of top business leaders. Top executives, far from feeble in will, have the same dysfunction in the reward center of their brains as individuals suffering from addiction.
Each group has the following personality characteristics in common:
How to know if a person with this makeup will go down a path of drug addiction or compulsion to succeed in business is not understood, but the same dulled sense of pleasure is present in each person.
What do you think of the comparison between personalities of successful business executives and drugs addicts? Where do you think the difference lies? Leave us a comment below and tell us your thoughts.