An epidemic is raging through America that has completely escaped notice of the Centers for Disease Control.
It’s a plague of addiction to the neurochemical, dopamine, which exists naturally in the brain, and, in healthy amounts supports human survival. However, when a chronic excess of dopamine persists, it could be described as “dopamania”, and presents an extreme risk to society. Major outbreaks are currently being observed in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and recently in the U.S.
One of dopamine’s primal responsibilities is to reinforce memory of survival experiences and behaviors. Too little of this neurochemical can manifest in Parkinson’s Disease, ADHD, and other serious neurological and physiological conditions. Too much dopamine, or dopamania, occurs when moderate, healthy, dopamine counts are elevated to excessively high levels. At that point, enlightened reasoning and thoughtful behavior associated with the complex modern, human brain (or prefrontal cortex) are compromised. Sufferers’ attempts at decision making may be limited to accessing little more than the older mammalian (animal) regions of the brain, driven primarily by reflexive emotions.
Fulfilling its obligation to guarantee the perpetuation of our species, the emotional animal brain reactively pumps out rewards of dopamine when it’s triggered by feelings of anger and fear, whether real, virtual, or fabricated. For example, players of first person shooter video games experience blood pressure, heart rate, tunnel vision, and changes in the central nervous system that nearly replicate what soldiers in on the battle field undergo.
Brains compromised by excessive dopamine are prone to impulsive, primitive behavior that lacks awareness or accountability for the harm they can perpetrate, on humanity or the environment, for example. Absent forethought or remorse, thinking and actions are likely to manifest short-sighted, often treacherous outcomes.
The primary means of infection is by exposure to a sustained barrage of fiery rhetoric based on real or fabricated realities. When this occurs, the animal brain, always alert to possible danger, harm or loss (of jobs, respect, territory, power, etc.) pours out surges of dopamine in large, habit-forming servings. Continual high doses activate the same areas of the brain affected by cocaine and amphetamines.
Mild symptoms include difficulty processing information, managing emotions and behavior, understanding cause and effect, or empathizing with others. Rational discussions and negotiations for mutual benefit become difficult, if not impossible.
Serious cases of dopamania exhibit irrational thinking, belligerent behavior, aggressive outbursts of verbal abuse, and a capacity to inflict extreme emotional, financial, and physical harm on others. Notable occurrences are exhibited in varying degrees by Boko Haram, ISIS, and Nationalist movements, whose leader’s flood follower’s brains with befuddling, addictive amounts of dopamine.
The brains of terrorists capable of bombing and killing innocent shoppers, travelers, diners, and concert goers, are examples of brains completely incapacitated by dopamine. Brigades of insurgents raping and pillaging villages with guns and machetes are acting without the benefit of guidance from the human, executive functions of their prefrontal cortex, which results in sub-human behavior. Nationalists, caught in a vortex of lies and hyperbole, used by their leaders to gin-up harmful, fear-based, doses of dopamine, can inhumanely separate themselves from the needs and suffering of others.
Once adherents contract dopamania by exposure to a carrier/leader, the results can be disastrous. Soaring on dopamine, stimulated by a frenzy of lies, misinformation, misplaced blame, and gross exaggeration, facts and reality go uncontested in favor of excitement, drama, and intense emotion, that perpetuate euphoric levels of dopamine.
At a certain point in this disease process, human brains that might otherwise question magical promises, deceptions, and immoral behavior go “offline” and become unavailable to challenge faulty thinking and malicious calls to action. What began as sporadic outbreaks, becomes a full-blown epidemic.
As with all addicts, more and more of the addictive substance is needed to feel the same pleasure and excitement. Bigger lies and greater fabrications are required to inflame dopamine-evoking emotions. Even intelligent, educated followers can become hooked on a group high, not unlike street-drug reactions, complete with similar feelings of grandiosity and euphoria. Reason and compassion would deny media or rally audiences the fix they came for.
Leaders who are carriers of dopamania are generally ravaged by their own addiction and compelled to continuously re-infect followers with large doses of dopamine, not only to maintain their loyalty, but also to ensure the supply of dopamine they need to sustain their own habit. For dopamaniacs, conflict, shock, irrational actions, extreme pronouncements and brutality fuel their rhetoric, and predictably generate the fear, anger, and anxiety guaranteed to produce another fix.
Deprived of sophisticated prefrontal (human) brain insight and wisdom, authentic issues become impossible to dissect and understand. Decisions and actions are chaotic. Outcomes are risky, and in the end stages of dopamania, are all too frequently inhumane.
Warning: Anyone not already infected with dopamania is cautioned not to assume that they are not at risk of contracting the ailment. It is a highly contagious condition. Exposure to repetitive angry, threatening rhetoric from any source on any side of an issue can raise dopamine to unhealthy levels.
It’s possible that well-meaning individuals and groups, deeply committed to pushing back against the dopamine epidemic, may be especially susceptible to dopamania. The stakes are high. Emotions are deeply experienced. Reactions are powerful. These are the perfect incubator conditions in which dopamania develops.
Early signs of dopamania include compulsive checking of news sources, and the frequent sharing of highly emotional emails, and texts; all of which communicate an intensity of emotion certain to evoke large amounts of dopamine. As temperatures, heart rates, and blood pressures rise, thoughtful analysis plummets.
Should dopamania spread from the initial carriers to those attempting to combat the epidemic, it could result an entire population unable to access the executive functions of the human brain – most notably critical thinking, emotional management, and empathy. Incapacitated, thinking and behavior would be vulnerable to manipulation by the few with calculated plans for mindless minions.
Recommended Treatment: Reduce contact with dopamine-inducing media and conversation. Limit exposure to potential sources of contagion, just long enough to detect essential data. Then, as sensations of anger, fear, and anxiety increase, take several, slow, deep breaths, and transition from potentially dopamine-toxic emotions into constructive action. Continue with this protocol until the threat of dopamania has passed.