Intoxicating or Toxic


Or is it really toxic

Don’t trust willpower


     What are the main causes of illness? Genetics? Random disease? Poverty? Infections? Autoimmune disorders? Trauma? Aging? What is the role of Addictive Behaviors? With our now worldwide obesity epidemic, high rates of cigarette and alcohol related illnesses and death, sedentary lives of excessive screen time and other sensory stimuli, perhaps much illness is something we have control over.

      If obesity went away, many of the most “successful” drugs would sit in bottles on shelves gathering dust. If emphysema went away, then most people would just need oxygen that’s already in the air; not in metal bottles from medical supply stores. If drug addiction went away, then drug cartels might have to repurpose to community service agencies. If most people got daily exercise and could choose healthy foods, then the children and grandchildren would better learn what’s important for health from their role model parents and grandparents.

     What stimulates addictive behaviors? Anything that is pleasurable! Living is a Catch-22. We are programmed to seek pleasure. Pleasure seeking means survival.  Our ancestors had to constantly move and seek food to survive. The more rest they could find, the more fat and sugar food had, and the more possessions they had,  the more likely they could pursue and slay the next mastodon. We have not evolved beyond that quest for rest, food, and stuff. But the mastodon steaks are already shrink wrapped at the grocery store. We pursue them in our cars. Our stuff encourages sitting a lot.

The advertising industry is expert at encouraging us to seek pleasure. We are expert at seeking pleasure because it is pleasurable and we know all the secret passageways to getting there. We can get through the minefields of medical people, magazines, government agencies, relatives, and friends all reminding us to choose more wisely for our health. Nothing can stop us from taking a hit of dopamine whenever we want, such as anticipating and eating a piece of chocolate cake a la mode.

Dopamine is a chemical Pied Piper of brain neurotransmitters showing you the way to Emerald City,  Shangri-La, or your pleasure-of-choice at the moment. Dopamine is living in the past. It still thinks a saber-toothed tiger is lurking around every corner and wants you to be well fed, rested, and carrying the most modern shield and spear before encountering it. Dopamine means well. It has just become a little misguided.

     We don’t want pain either. Most people like to avoid a healthy amount of exercise because it is often rather unpleasant and causes soreness, especially if we smoke and are overweight. It also takes away time from the pursuit of the vast array of pleasures our culture offers us.

Most of us like the pleasure of false hope. However, there is no snake oil, or magic pill, or diet, or app, or 5 minute abs exercise that will give you a healthy body. But don’t listen to me. This article is just another land mine to avoid on your way to the pleasure center. You’ll find me there enjoying another bowl of ice cream.





5 thoughts on “Intoxicating or Toxic

  1. Well said! It’s often difficult to find a solution to the problem if one doesn’t understand the problem. Insight into what drives us to seek pleasure and avoid pain is a step toward finding a solution–at our own personal levels as well as at a societal level. The physiological and psychological drivers for pleasure and pain are common among all of us.

    However, many of us are talented at admiring the problem–and not finding real solutions. So what do we do? Many of us can probably draw on some personal experience in our past where we faced up to a difficult problem and through courage and hard work, solved or worked through the problem. I wonder if each person could identify the elements for him- or herself in solving that difficult problem and could then apply those elements to solving their own issues surrounding their health? I challenge readers of this blog to think about this and share their experiences. Let me share one of mine.

    A few years ago after retirement, I restarted piano lessons after an over 30-year hiatus. I had no desire to perform, just to enjoy making music myself. However, my piano teacher wanted me to play at his annual student recital, and I reluctantly accepted. My chosen piece needed a lot of work (that is, hard practice) and I needed to gain enough confidence in playing the piece in order to stem my anxiety over performing publicly. So what did I do? I practiced. And practiced some more. I created a vision of performing the piece, feeling good about the performance, and hearing the applause after the performance. I practiced each difficult passage alone multiple times each day, and I played the entire piece many, many times. Over a couple of months, the rough spots in the piece became smoother, and I started to hear and feel the music. When I sat down at the piano for the actual performance, I knew the performance was going to go well–and it did.

    For me, l think exercise can be something like the piano. Yes, exercise can be hard work and requires consistency to achieve results. But if you create the vision of a healthy life, work hard to get over the inertia of changing your lifestyle, and get to the point of where the exercise becomes easier, perhaps even enjoyable, you will feel the results.

    Now….for that bowl of ice cream….


  2. Excellent points, I have over the last 4 yrs quit smoking, continued walking to my ability with bad knee, exercise and golf. This has helped with better deeper sleep, a more organic based diet and a few less beers a week. So far so good, hang in there Cordon, a bowl of Ice cream is a reward for kindness, not evil in a bowl….. 😊.


  3. How does this account for my football addiction? Is this an example of my misguided dopamine? If there are no mastadons left to hunt, then don’t I NEED football just to give my stone age brain something to think about? What IS going to happen to the Seahawks? Will Thomas Rawls return to his rookie season form? Will the o-line be allowed to count 7-alligator? Will the Earl Thomas and the defense return to form? Will Pete Carroll finally heed the advice of and switch from sugar to sugar-free chewing gum???


    1. Hah🤓..
      Very astute observations and Seahawks concerns. I’m no expert on games’ effects on dopamine but I’m sure games including games of chance all affect it.


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