Saturday, February 9, 2013

Evolution and Modern Behavioral Problems: Addiction

The information presented in “The Case of Addiction” is not particularly new or surprising. Daniel H. Lende notes several evolutionary factors which are possible causes of modern drug addiction: ritual-like behaviors, lack of need for self-regulated systems, ancient dopamine receptors, and (socially) adaptive benefits. But he cites addiction as a behavioral disorder influenced by modern sociocultural and environmental happenings rather than an evolutionary problem in itself. With modern media culture and high stress lifestyles across all social classes, drug addiction is, understandably, a major subject in our modern lives.

Have you heard that thing about how attention spans are approximately 15 seconds in this day and age? My immediate thought was the factor of youth. Over the years, I myself have lost a handful of friends to drug use -- daily focus on drugs, difficulty stopping, and using despite consequences sound accurate but I question whether it is technically addiction or not. Ancient humans had more leisure time, but with less complex brain structures, they also probably didn’t require as much stimulation as we do today. With more leisure time, they didn’t require a break from overstimulation either.

Addiction signifies a chronic struggle characterized by, as Lende puts it, intensification and reinstatement. But even assuming sociocultural and environmental circumstances change, does this mean that addiction could eventually become an evolutionary problem for future humans?

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