Dopamine, the neurotransmitter in our brain synthesized from the amino acid tyrosine, plays a vital role in physiology and psychology. It is how we define feelings of pleasure and joy. As human beings, we seek out activities which can lead to a release of dopamine and bring about this effect in our brains. From narcotics to big numbers and ‘likes’ on social media, it is the delivery of dopamine to the receptors in our brain which influences a large majority of our actions. Much of the work needed for society to build and improve our quality of life does not cause this chemical reaction. It is the regressive and addictive patterns of behavior which lead to a release of dopamine; as Ye West aptly lyricized in his song ‘Addiction,’ “Why everything that’s supposed to be bad make me feel so good? Everything they told me not to (do) is exactly what I would.” Dopamine influences the brain to repeat the actions which have caused the feeling of joy, satisfaction and pleasure, leading to addiction and the psychological and physiological consequences of dopamine abuse.

It is known in technical terms as the human brain’s reward system, and as such there ought to be more of an emphasis on what far-reaching act of good or personal growth one has achieved in order to earn said reward. In many instances dopamine is associated with orgasm or, as the French refers to the orgasm, “la petite mort'' (the little death) owing to the transcendental and euphoric feeling of sexual climax. In discussing the abuse of dopamine we must also discuss why so many seek it out online or in the physical world. It must be asked, is our natural resting state of consciousness one of ennui and empty of innate purpose? As the saying goes, idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Generations of people have been born into a world which does not prioritize caring for the natural world (which is from an outsider’s perspective, all that human beings should be concerned with given the awesome and terrifying forces of nature we meddle in). Generations of people have been born into a post-industrialist, profit-based meritocracy which rarely trickles down enough to elevate the middle class, least of all aiding the marginalized and vulnerable. In short, this purported purpose is insufficient and unsustainable to many.

Building someone else’s empire is to the middle class, what sand castles are to the tide, empty of all meaning (in economic terms, with technological advancements superseding an equitable rise in quality of life) and fragile beyond the understanding of the child-like mind that constructed it. It is for this reason that, for the individual, cheap thrills and dopamine release have the potential to take priority over industrialism. Many feel neglected by the industry they are a part of, this could be why many women have joined OnlyFans, which defines itself as “an internet content subscription service based in London, United Kingdom. The Service is used primarily by sex workers who produce pornography.” The middle class is now producing and purchasing its own dopamine, pimping itself out for financial security in uncertain times. A rush of dopamine to combat the inevitable misery of abject and shameless classism. This website is the most blunt sign of our times since the turn of the millennium.

Dopamine abuse can lead to learning disabilities including ADHD as the dopamine receptors play a part in retaining information and forming memories, studies have pointed at dopamine abuse as a potential cause of Parkinson’s disease through the degeneration of dopamine-producing neurons known as the substantia nigra. Listlessness, malaise and a lack of essential purpose which benefits society at large, igniting hope that the future is secure and bright, are root causes of what lead people to dopamine abuse. These causes must not be avoided, they must be discussed consistently and substituted in meaningful ways moving forward this century.