Study Compares Tanning to Drug Addiction

tanningAt the heart of addiction is a process in the brain that releases the “pleasure chemicals” called endorphins. When you take most drugs, the brain will release extra endorphins or the drug will block the brain from re-absorbing the endorphins that it has already released. In both cases, the body and mind experience a pleasurable flush of “happiness” from all the chemicals that are pooling in the brain.

Addicts get stuck on this feeling and what to create it over and over again. When they are deprived from the substances that are helping them release so many endorphins in the brain, they go through unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that urge them to go back and use the drugs again.

While not every drug acts on the body and mind in exactly the same manner, most will go through some variation of this process. Now researchers believe that other behaviors can have the same effect on the body and mind.

Can Tanning Be an Addiction

Using drugs is not the only way to get the brain to release endorphins. After all, most of the normal and healthy activities in your life that are pleasurable are working on these same systems in the brain. When you eat a delicious healthy meal or have sex with your significant other, these same chemicals are being released in the brain and reinforcing the feeling that you are doing something fun and worthwhile.

Researchers believe that addictive behaviors in any area of life begin when a person hijacks this process to release endorphins over and over again in an unhealthy manner. Someone that is addicted to eating or addicted to sex is postulated to be someone that is hijacking the body and brain’s natural rewards system to get that pleasurable feeling over and over again even thought they aren’t actually engaging in healthy behavior any longer.

Oddly enough, recent research indicates that this addictive process may even apply to tanning. Scientists at Harvard Medical School found that exposure to UV radiation (the component of sunlight that causes your body to tan) could also release endorphins in the brain. When you lay out in the sun for a while (or lay in a tanning bed), you are going to cause your brain to release the same pleasure chemicals as a hit of a drug.

The reason that some people seem to tan way too often (to the point of destroying their skin and even getting skin cancer), could be that they are addicted to this process in the same way that an addict is addicted to drugs.

Differences Between Drug Addiction and Tanning

The main difference between these two behaviors, however, is that drugs exert a much more powerful pull on your body and mind than tanning does. If they were equivalent, we would probably see “tanning junkies” giving up their careers and families to tan, in the same manner as we see drugs destroying the lives of addicts.

The fact is that they simply aren’t comparable. While tanning too much can damage your health, it doesn’t reach the same realm of chaos and destruction as the most popular drugs in America. Most tanners can decide on their own at some point that they have gone too far. Addicts, on the other hand, need professional help to give up drugs. They can almost never quit “cold turkey” or on their own.

Centers like Narconon Arrowhead exist to give drug addicts and alcoholics the help they need to overcomes the addictions that they can’t beat on their own. If you know someone that needs help to get past alcohol abuse or any type of drug abuse, contact Narconon Arrowhead today.


Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/23/study-tanning-addictive-like-heroin/