Organic Consumers Association

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Doped-Up Nation: How America Became a Country of Addicts

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Appetite For a Change page.

Recent studies confirm an alarming reality: As a country, when it comes to dealing with personal problems, we use an external fix. Whether it's routine disruptions we face at work, the common crises at home, or our children trying to parse the maelstrom of media overload-the fact is that it's increasingly rare that Americans turn to internal or interpersonal resources to establish equilibrium. Instead, our first impulse is to seek out a quick and external source, which becomes both the cause of our problems, and the solution.

The first place people look is the simple dopamine spike. Most people have reliable techniques to make themselves feel better-or, as I like to say, to give themselves a little "dopamine spike." Dopamine, as you probably know, is the neurotransmitter triggered by "rewarding events." These pleasurable moments may occur naturally, but they are also the direct result of specific drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine or nicotine. 

While we may admire the American impulse to applaud hard work, innovation, and daring, the rewards of these labors aren't immediate. We're an impatient nation; we seek more immediate gratification. We've come to accept an approach of "why wait?", so we grab ahold of whatever it takes to feel better, to keep feeling better, to make it through the day.

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