Why Addiction Is Nothing New

Lynn Webster, MD, Cocaine, Pain, Chronic Pain

If you think the addiction crisis is new, it’s interesting to note that Sigmund Freud was addicted to cocaine.

Yes. That Sigmund Freud.

So addiction is not a new problem. You might think that, because we’ve been dealing with addiction for so long, that we would have found a cure for it. At least, you’d think, we would have progressed past the point where we were prescribing cocaine.

And, yet, cocaine is still used clinically today.

Addiction is a disease that exist on a spectrum of human behavior diseases. It is expressed as an extreme set of destructive behaviors. About 15% of the population is addicted to some substance at any one time.

Happiness, sadness, pleasure seeking, pain avoidance, positive, and negative moods are all emotions and behaviors that determine the degree of the pleasantness or unpleasantness of one’s life. The sum of these emotions is an individual’s hedonic tone.

Everyone lives within a hedonic range, but people can be pushed to either extreme. Painful emotional experiences and lack of resilience can pull someone toward a low level of hedonia, or no hedonia, called anhedonia while love and rewarding life experiences can elevate an individual’s hedonia to a level of ecstasy that is addictive.

So you see that addiction and anhedonia are part of being human. They are extremes, and both can be deadly. Suicide is a cause of death from anhedonia while chemicals are often the cause of death from addictions. Both have an imbalance of the endogenous pleasure reward system.

And, if addiction can happen to someone of Freud’s stature, it can happen to anybody.


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Copyright 2016, Lynn Webster, MD

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