Yet more about brain chemistry and addiction: A few years ago, the Harvard Mental Health Letter pointed out that the dopamine link is important with respect to learning.
That is, when we do something pleasurable, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in our brain and tells us to repeat the experience.
But dopamine is also involved in parts of the brain having to do with forming memories and learning. So not only do we get the message to repeat the pleasurable experience, we also truly “learn” to repeat it. Hence, we may become addicted.
Of course, from the standpoint of evolution, we need to feel pleasure in learning, because learning was and is essential to our survival. And we still enjoy learning new things, whether they are in in academics or entertainment or gossip. I know I get a kick out of learning about the connection between dopamine and addiction—it explains a lot.
Dopamine apparently is part of becoming addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, thrill seeking, etc.
But ironically, dopamine also rewards use of recovery techniques, especially in twelve-step programs. Recovering addicts experience the pleasures of spiritual practice and fellowship. Clearly, we have a lot to learn about dopamine, the human brain, neurotransmitters, and who knows what else?