The Persistent Myth of Sex Addiction

Here’s an interesting one from one of my female followers…

According to every online test I’ve taken, I’m a sex addict. And if you took the quizzes, you probably would be too, at least if you answered honestly to questions like “Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts?” “Do you ever feel bad about your sexual behavior?” and “Have you used the internet to make romantic or erotic connections with people online?”

Even if you answered “no” to all these questions, you’re still not off the hook. If you watch porn, you might be a sex addict; If you “often require the use of a vibrator… to enhance the sexual experience” you might be a sex addict; if you spend some of your time “ruminating about past sexual encounters,” you might be a sex addict.

By these standards, nearly all human beings are sex addicts, as a recent study found that 73 percent of women and 85 percent of men had looked at internet porn in the past six months; other studies found that about half of American men and women have used vibrators. Perhaps that is right: sex is one of our strongest drives, and according to one study, the median number of times people think about sex is 10-19 times a day. But pathologizing all of humanity for expressing normal human sexuality is ridiculous in the least and dangerous at the worst. The fact that most people would be considered sex addicts is positive for only one group of people: those employed by the multimillion-dollar sex addiction industry.

Sex addiction treatment forces people into a kind of re-education program, which tries to convince them that perfectly normal consensual sexual behavior is the sign of a serious problem. Some of them are run by Christian pastors, others by licensed professional counselors. In-patient facilities are often located in picturesque areas, like palatial Arizona desert retreats, complete with poolside ping-pong and equine therapy (how nuzzling a horse cures sex addiction is never explained). These programs tell supposed sex addicts that they can reprogram themselves through behavioral modifications to become ideal sexual citizens: monogamous, non-porn-using people who rarely masturbate or fantasize about anyone other than their main partners. Some even take it further and force people to abandon healthy activities like masturbation for 30 days.

If this sounds familiar in a bad way, it might be because some of the same centers that treat sex addiction also offer gay conversion therapy, although they no longer call it that because conversion therapy has been banned for minors in 19 states (instead they say they treat “unwanted same-sex attraction” and “homosexuality/lesbianism”). This sad fact further illuminates the ugly truth behind the sex addiction industry: it’s based on a moralistic judgment on what sexual behaviors are socially acceptable, yet it’s cloaked in a scientific sheen that gives it legitimacy. Although gay conversion therapy is much more harmful, sex addiction treatment is similar in that both are about modifying behavior even though biology and psychology are compelling a person in a different direction.

One key question that appears on nearly all sex addiction quizzes is: “Do you feel that your sexual behavior is not normal?” The problem is, most people don’t know what a “normal” sex life is, and consensual sexual behaviors that are statistically abnormal are not the sign of a disease. As psychologist David Ley has argued in his book, The Myth of Sex Addiction, the criteria for sex addiction “reflect heterosexual and monogamous social values and judgments rather than medical or scientific data.”

Sex addiction isn’t a new concept, it’s a new name for an old one; it falls into a continuum of pathologizing sexual behavior going back to the 19th century when women were labeled nymphomaniacs for behavior we would consider normal today, such as having orgasms through clitoral stimulation. In fact, 21st-century sex addiction therapists sound nearly identical to 19th-century vice reformers.

“Pornography coupled with masturbation and fantasy is often the cornerstone for sexual addiction. This is a dangerous combination …A fantasy world is created, sometimes as early as adolescence, that is visited throughout developmental stages,” says the website of a current therapy center called L.I.F.E. Recovery International. “The sexual addict may use his or her addiction in place of true spirituality — sex becomes the addict’s God,” the website declares.

Similarly, 19th-century vice reformer Anthony Comstock wrote that “Obscene publications” and “immoral articles” [sex toys] are “like a cancer” which “fastens itself upon the imagination…defiling the mind, corrupting the thoughts, leading to secret practices of most foul and revolting character.” He suggested that young adults read the Bible instead of giving into their sexual urges.

Why do we continue to further such an outdated view of sex? Sex addiction is a way to police sexual behavior and impose conventional morality through a seemingly scientific, trendy addiction model. It attempts to slot people into some mythical standard of normal sexuality, one defined by monogamy and devoid of fantasy.

The sex addiction industry persists in spite of the fact that again and again sex addiction has been debunked by experts. Sex addiction isn’t considered legitimate by psychologists; the scientific literature doesn’t back it up; and it isn’t in the DSM-5, the authoritative catalog of mental disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. Yet therapists benefit financially from sex addiction diagnoses, moralists benefit spiritually from them, and supposed sex addicts benefit practically from them. Sex addiction provides a great excuse for people who engage in socially objectionable sexual behavior (It’s not my fault! I couldn’t help banging the sexy neighbor! I’m an addict! I’ll go to treatment!).

This coincides with the fact that most sex addicts are heterosexual men, so the diagnosis frequently becomes a way to legitimize male sexual behavior, while also sometimes labeling their female partners as enablers. Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein reportedly checked himself in to an in-patient treatment program after allegations against him were first published in late 2017, a path that many other high-profile men have taken in the wake of scandal.

The concept of sex addiction makes sex seem way more logical than it actually is. It fits into our culture’s view of controlling and constraining sex through rules, like the criminalization of sex work. Hiring a sex worker or engaging in any illegal sexual activities is a sign you’re a sex addict, according to most sex addiction screening tests. Yet, a wide range of more widely accepted sexual behavior is also illegal in the U.S., including having sex with an unmarried person of the opposite sex (a crime in Idaho, Illinois, and South Carolina) and adultery, which is a crime in over a dozen states.

But sex is messy and complicated, and hardwired and controlled by hormones, and no amount of counseling is going to stop you from having sexual urges. The sex addiction model provides a 12-step solution to the messiness of sex and the challenge of monogamy: if you follow these simple steps, the thinking goes, you too can be in control of the strongest biological urge and be free of daily horniness. If only it were that simple.

 

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How To Spot An Alcoholic: Signs Of Problem Drinking

An alcohol addicted individual cannot operate without it; what is more, they are no longer in control of it, instead, booze takes command over them.

To stop them from spiraling down into their dependency, you need to recognize alcoholic tendencies immediately. By doing so, they will reduce harm to both the physical and social facets of someone’s existence.

A problem drinker does not always have the physical ability or cognitive precision to realize their initial symptoms of alcohol addiction, let alone put a stop to them. Many abusers will go to fantastic lengths to hide their drinking.

It’s worth saying that drinkers are nowhere near as good at hiding their drinking as they think. Chewing gum never really covers up the smell of alcohol on the breath!

 

Not As Clever As They Think!

It lands on us to identify the actual clues of alcohol addiction and the alcoholic activity habits they display. Only then can we help somebody eliminate this harmful substance addiction.

Having alcoholic drinks available is an expected component of most parties and get-togethers.

Consuming alcohol within ‘safe’ limits, for that reason, should logically bring no intrinsic injury and should generally not trigger problems. However, if taken a step further, drinking alcohol can become a harmful routine and needs to be cut short.

Specific symptoms and signs can assist individuals to identify if the individual they know could be coping with alcohol addiction.

The Habits of The Problem Drinker:

  1. Getting drunk often, daily or in binges.
  2. Experiencing regular and generally painful hangovers.
  3. Feeling regretful or embarrassed regarding their drinking.
  4. Frequently requiring an alcoholic beverage to unwind or feel better.
  5. Memory problems and blackouts.
  6. Losing the capacity to regulate the number of drinks.
  7. Experiencing withdrawal when they can’t get a drink or go cold-turkey.

Physical Indicators Of A Problem Drinker

Apart from the behavioral habits the individual may have, there are physical indicators of alcohol addiction which typically help to identify an alcohol abuser quickly.

Physical indicators that can help in identifying an alcoholic consist of:

  1. Slurred speech
  2. Falling over or stumbling
  3. Impeded reflexes
  4. Complaints of abdominal discomfort
  5. Throwing up
  6. Queasiness
  7. Inflammation of the skin

Problem Drinking Epidemic

Problem Drinking Epidemic

How To Spot An Alcoholic 10 Warning Signs

An individual who is dealing with an alcohol abuse challenge will the majority of the times fit into the framework of the 10 warning signs of alcohol addiction. These signs and symptoms vary from physical to attitudinal clues which adversely impact a person’s individual and professional daily life.

The following checklist isn’t definitive but can present you with advice on how to spot an alcoholic.

How to spot an alcoholic? Here’s what they are most likely to do:

Skipping Family Obligations

A mysterious absence from work decreased efficiency, and disregard of home duties by an otherwise responsible person are indications that the man or woman perhaps does not have the physical stamina or psychological focus to carry out his/her normal responsibilities.

This is not always because of an alcohol abuse issue but is typically a good starting point for recognizing one.

Consuming Alcohol in Risky Situations

Frequently, a person will maintain their alcohol consumption routines even in circumstances they understand present an enhanced risk to themselves and those around. Consuming alcohol while or before driving a vehicle, for instance, is among such scenarios.

 

Combining booze with illegal substances like marijuana and heroin or prescribed medications are also scenarios which serve as indications of alcoholism. Appreciating the risks is an indicator that the individual is prepared to take chances for the sake of satisfying their alcohol consumption addiction.

This maligning alcoholic conduct may be frightening for family and loved ones observing its materialization.

 

We are drinking too much

We are drinking too much

Displaying Unusual Mood Swings

Alcohol abuser can have inexplicable emotional state fluctuations throughout the inception of withdrawal symptoms. Abrupt and unusual mood swings in a steady man or woman or somebody who does not struggle with mood afflictions might suggest the initial stage of alcohol addiction.

If an individual displays alcohol withdrawal signs and symptoms, it is quite likely that she or he has been consuming alcohol for quite a long time.

Lying About Alcohol Use

This suggests that the individual knows his/her drinking routines are troublesome or unusual but is attempting to hide them or play them down. This is among the most powerful indications of alcoholism.

The problem for any liar is the more they lie the more lies they have to remember. It’s often very easy to trip up a liar who is forced to keep compounding the narrative.

Showing a High Resistance to Alcohol Consumption

This is an indication of persistent drinking or full-on alcoholism. The individual not only consumes more but also presents the signs and symptoms of resistance to alcohol when compared to his/her friends.

 

Their system has become used to having an elevated level of alcohol in the bloodstream.

 

alcohol and depression

Displaying the Physical Indications of Alcohol Addiction

These will be more substantial problems like those noted above. An alcohol abuser is also less likely to care about aesthetics with a flushed-looking skin, shivering hands, and reddish or mottled skin being the common tangible indications of alcohol addiction.

Weight gain and sloppy appearance go hand in hand with bloodshot eyes and pallid skin tone.

Being Incapable of Sustaining A Loving Relationship

Decreased consideration to their significant other, deceptive conduct or deceit, and worries over financial resources take a toll on romantic relationships.

If an individual is not able to stop drinking for the sake of saving their marriage, it is clear that she or he values drinking greater than the happiness of their significant other.

Alcoholic tendencies in relationships is an excellent way to identify a way of alcoholic reasoning.

dui

Getting into Trouble with the Police

If regular confrontations with the police on charges of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, breach of the peace, or ruinous behavior in an intoxicated state cannot keep an individual away from drinking, what can? This kind of a mindset securely she or he focuses on drinking over daily life, security, and appropriate societal conduct.

When an individual is manipulated by problem drinking their decision-making capabilities end up being damaged, as well.

Drinking at Improper or Abnormal Moments

Alcohol withdrawal is uncomfortable and painful plus they know they can stop that pain at any point with a simple drink.

Even when an individual wishes to stop drinking, the discomfort may be intolerable, and they find short-term release in their next alcoholic beverage. When it comes to many problem drinkers, these signs and symptoms begin to materialize within a day of having the final drink.

For that reason, people affected by more severe drug addiction have a tendency to consume alcohol in abnormal periods of the day. Early mornings or afternoons are a few of these abnormal times of the day.

Not every one of the above-mentioned alcohol addiction indicators might appear altogether. As a matter of fact, a few may never show up at all.

So if you observe somebody who is displaying unusual alcohol consumption habits which are regularly landing that person in trouble, encourage them to get specialist support.

When these indications appear, it is a clear mark that drinking has already begun to impact the body and the mind and actions of the person.

 

The biggest tip I can give you when it comes to how to spot an alcoholic is to trust your gut! If you suspect it, the chances are you are right.

 

how to spot an alcoholic

How to spot an alcoholic

How The Stop Drinking Expert Can Help

Spotting an alcoholic is one point, but extending a helping hand is the action that requires courage.

Challenging somebody about an alcohol issue may be a difficult thing to do, particularly if the alcoholic is in deep denial about their dependency. In such an issue, it is essential to consider the impact you will have made to somebody’s life.

It may be a life-saving thing that you do for them.

You should approach the person carefully and use reassuring words to make them feel comfortable, letting them understand they are not the only one in this battle. Send them a copy of my book ‘Alcohol Lied To Me‘ or even better have them attend the daily free quit drinking webinar.

 

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If You Recognize Any Of These Signs, You Might Be A Sex Addict

Are you a sex addict?

What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction, officially referred to by the World Health Organization as Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder, looks a lot like alcoholism and drug addiction except the”drug of choice” is sexual fantasy and activity, rather than an addictive substance.

Is addiction a disease? What are the signs of addiction of the sexual nature?

Like all other types of addiction, sex addiction is identified based on three primary criteria:

  • Preoccupation to the point of obsession with the substance or behavior of choice.
  • Loss of control over the use of the substance or behavior, typically evidenced by failed attempts to quit or cut back.
  • Directly related negative consequences — relationship trouble, issues at work or in school, declining physical health, depression, anxiety, diminished self-esteem, isolation, financial woes, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, legal trouble, etc.

If you’re like most people, you readily understand the concept of substance addiction. If you are not addicted to anything, yourself (like cigarettes, alcohol, prescription medications, illicit drugs, etc.), you probably know someone who is.

At the very least, you’ve seen relatively accurate portrayals of substance abuse on television and in the movies.

Behavioral addictions — like sex addiction — are usually more difficult to fathom. Nevertheless, people can and do become addicted to behaviors just as often and just as easily as they become addicted to highly pleasurable, self-soothing, and dissociative substances — and with similarly problematic results.

For an active sex addict, sexual fantasies and behavior are priority number one. Sexual activity (either solo or with others) takes place no matter what, regardless of potential or actual consequences.

Often, sex addicts will tell themselves, But before long, they’re right back at it, showing and engaging in the same or very similar behavior.

Sex addicts organize their lives around sexual fantasy and the behaviors that follow. They spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about, planning for, pursuing, and engaging in sexual activity.

Sex becomes an obsession to the point where important relationships, interests, and responsibilities are ignored. Nearly always, sex addicts find themselves living a double life, keeping their sexual acting out hidden and a secret from family, friends, and everyone else who matters to them.

Sex addiction symptoms and patterns of fantasy-driven behavior that are typically exhibited by sex addicts include (but are by no means limited to) the following:

  • Compulsive use of pornography, with or without masturbation
  • Compulsive use of one or more digital sexologies — webcams, sexting, dating/hookup websites and apps, virtual reality sex games, sexual devices, etc.
  • Consistently being “on the hunt” for sexual activity
  • Multiple ongoing affairs or brief “serial” relationships
  • Consistent involvement with strip clubs, adult bookstores, adult movie theaters, sex clubs, and other sex-focused environments
  • Engaging in prostitution and/or sensual massage (hiring or providing)
  • A pattern of anonymous and/or casual sex hookups with people met online or in-person
  • Repeatedly engaging in unprotected sex
  • Repeatedly engaging in sex with potentially dangerous people or in potentially dangerous places
  • Seeking sexual experiences without regard to immediate or long-term potential consequences
  • A pattern of minor sexual offenses such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, frotteurism, etc.

Like other addicts, sex addicts typically use their behavior as a way to “numb out” and escape from stress and emotional (and sometimes physical) discomfort — including the pain of underlying emotional and/or psychological issues like depression, anxiety, early-life trauma, and the like.

In other words, sex addicts don’t use compulsive sexual fantasies and behaviors to feel good and have fun, they use them to feel less (i.e., to distract themselves from what they are feeling). As such, sexual addiction is not about having fun, it’s about controlling what one feels.

 

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10 Steps to Quitting Pornography Addiction

Here’s an interesting perspective from one of my followers in the Middle East.

If you’re reading this, then you either struggle with pornography addiction, or care about someone who does. Please know that you’re not alone, and with the help of Allah, it is possible for you or your loved one(s) to overcome it.

How to quit a pornography addiction
1 – Accept that you have an addiction
Healing always begins with acceptance. Nobody likes labels, but accepting that you have a pornography addiction is the first step of your healing journey. You are not alone, and countless of people around the world have overcome their pornography addiction.

2 – Find a trustworthy support group
I strongly recommend the online resource, Purify Your Gaze. The founder, Brother Zeyad Ramadan has both sincerity and years of expertise in this field. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong journey, and that path doesn’t have to be a lonely one. There is strength in community, and Purify Your Gaze offers both that as well as the safety of anonymity, through clients using online nicknames.

3 – Be gentle and patient with yourself
Recovery is a lifelong journey, so don’t expect instant results! The more pressure you put on yourself, the more likely you might actually fail. Think of recovery as a marathon instead of a sprint. It is normal to feel disappointed when you relapse, so use that as an opportunity to surrender to Allah, repent and start again.

4 – Understand what drives your behavior
What are your triggers? Are you more likely to relapse when you get stressed about exams, feel lonely after attending weddings, or after you argue with difficult friends or family members? Try your best to notice the patterns in your behavior. When you notice the patterns, then you’ll be better able to look after yourself during those stressful moments. There isn’t a foolproof way to completely prevent stress, but it always helps to be aware of what presses your buttons.

5 – Cultivate a rich spiritual life
A closer connection to Allah will help you feel better connected to yourself. Struggling with addiction is often a sign that you find it really hard to stay emotionally present, and don’t have better coping mechanisms. Think of what you can do on a daily basis to help you feel more connected to Allah. Is through regular dua? Regular recitation of Qur’an? Fasting regularly? Everyone has different paths to Allah.

6 – Practice daily self-care
Check into your moods throughout the day until it becomes a habit. Use your five daily prayer times as a way to mindfully slow down and check into yourself. How often are you able to exercise every week? Is your diet healthy and balanced? What kind of books and media are you consuming? Make conscious decisions to choose to consume what is good for you, so that your heart and limbs can also manifest what is good.

7 – Choose your friends wisely
Don’t keep the company of people who indulge in pornography. Instead, spend time with God-fearing people who do good, and invite you to do the same.

8 – Buffer yourself during times of extra stress
When you know that you’re going to go through a rough patch, then do your best to prepare for it. Schedule in rituals into your daily and weekly routine to help you feel more balanced. It could be working out at the gym, going for a walk, or meeting a good friend for coffee.

9 – Forgive yourself when you relapse
Only Prophets are protected from sin. Everyone else is wired to make mistakes. Repentance is how we find our way back to Allah. Instead of beating yourself up and losing yourself in guilt, pick yourself up again, and consider it a learning experience. What can you do better next time?

If you were to commit sin until your sins reach the heaven, then you were to repent, your repentance would be accepted.” -Prophet Mohammed, narrated from Abu Hurairah (Sunan Ibn Majah)

10 – Reflect on how you can give back
One of the biggest gifts of striving to overcome pornography addiction is this – having empathy. And from this empathy comes the ability to support others along their own recovery journeys. This is is a lot better than shaming, blaming and judging fellow Muslims for having pornography addiction

Consider the childhood roots of pornography addiction
Maybe you came across pornography by accident. Maybe you were curious about sex, but looked for information through pornography. Whatever the reason, being involved in a pornography addiction may point to some difficult realities about your family home. In his must-watch video Brother Zeyad Ramadan describes the childhood home of pornography addicts having three unspoken rules.

1 – The Don’t Trust Rule (I don’t trust my parents)

2 – The Don’t Feel Rule (I survive by not feeling, my parents feel threatened by my feelings)

3 – The Don’t Talk Rule (Denial, we don’t speak the truth, we don’t talk about problems)

Grieve for the little wounded child inside you. You were an innocent and trusting child, and you deserved a safer family home. No matter what your parents did to hurt you, you are an adult now, and you are responsible for your own healing journey. Take ownership of your actions, and decide that it’s time to break that cycle. Your own future children will benefit from your courage and commitment to change, inshaAllah.

Benefits of insight
When you become a parent some day, then you will be a strong advocate for your own child’s emotional health. Because of your own lived experience, you’ll also be much more prepared to protect them from the dangers of pornography. There’s no running away from the reality that the tide of pornography is a growing one, so through your own healing journey, you will help your own children navigate their way to safety, in this world and the next.

 

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Tales of Rock – Special Report – James Hetfield

Metallica’s James Hetfield Relapses and Enters Rehab, Band Postpones Tour: ‘We Are Truly Sorry’
http://va.topbuzz.com/s/YQMspk

Medical Minute: Sex Addiction

Jada Pinkett Smith is opening up about her “unhealthy” addiction to pornography before she met her husband Will Smith.

The 47-year-old actress revealed her addiction on the latest episode of her popular web series Red Table Talk.

Jada said she had an “unhealthy relationship to porn” when she was “trying to practice abstinence.”

“It was actually, like, filling, like, an emptiness. At least you think it is, but it’s actually not,” Jada said.

She said the intense effects of her addiction gave her a false sense of expectations as far as sexual interactions.

“Actually reading, like, some of the effects of pornography, like the idea that it gives you false expectations as far as sexual interactions, I can definitely see that with men,” Jada said.

“In pornography you’re never tired. There’s never a ‘no,’ so I can definitely see how that can create an unrealistic expectation.”

 

What is Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction is the repeated, compulsive participation in sexual activity, particularly sexual intercourse or anal penetration, despite negative consequences.

Like most addictions, the negative impact on the addict usually increases as the disorder progresses.

Over time, the addict has to intensify the addictive behavior to achieve the same results.

Viewing porn or pleasuring yourself daily does not necessarily mean you are a sex addict.

Like food, sex is necessary for human survival. A healthy abundant sex life is normal. In fact, lack of interest in sex can indicate a medical problem or psychiatric illness, according to Psych Central.

About 71 percent of child molesters are sex addicts. Their urges and desires to increase the intensity of their predilection for children is so severe that life imprisonment is the only way to ensure society’s safety against them.

Not all sex addicts become sex offenders. About 55 percent of all sex offenders are sex addicts.

Access to the Internet is increasing the number of individuals – including children and teenagers – who engage in a variety of unhealthy sexual practices, such as viewing porn websites, online escort services and dating websites.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of sex addiction include:

  • Self hate or self harm
  • A pervasive preoccupation with sex or porn
  • Practicing unsafe sex without regard for consequences
  • Sexual fantasies that need to be fed more and more
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Inability to maintain healthy sexual relationships
  • Feeling powerless without sex
  • Exploiting others for sex

Sex addiction becomes a problem when it affects your social life, your job, and your medical and mental health.

People who are distressed or conflicted by their increasing addiction to porn or sex should contact their physician or healthcare provider for a referral to a mental health professional who can help you.

This has been your Medical Minute.

More Info On the Web

What is Sexual Addiction? | Psych Central

Is Sex Addiction Real? | WebMD

What is Sex Addiction? | Healthline

 

DISCLAIMER

Any medical information published on this blog is for your general information only and is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice. You should not take any action before consulting with your personal physician or a health care provider. Phicklephilly and its affiliates cannot be held liable for any damages incurred by following information found on this blog.

 

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Sun Stories: Kita – Chapter 20 – Addicted to Tanning?

“UV light may trigger the same reward pathway in the brain as drugs such as heroin.”

I think Kita is addicted to tanning. I decided to do some research.

Experts have long wondered why many people tan regularly despite the known risk of skin cancer. Past studies suggest that the motivation is not just vanity—some tanning buffs have symptoms of dependence and withdrawal. Now a study in Cell adds more evidence that tanning is addictive. It showed that mice become dependent on beta-endorphin, a drug-like opioid molecule made by the skin under ultraviolet light.

A team at Massachusetts General Hospital scrutinized the opioid system, the reward pathway hijacked by drugs such as heroin, because the researchers had earlier found that beta-endorphin and the skin pigment melanin originate from the same protein. Other studies have also pointed to the opioid system; in one, frequent tanners showed withdrawal symptoms when they took a drug that blocked opioid receptors.

In the new study, shaved mice got a daily dose of UV light long enough to tan but not burn—on a par with 20 to 30 minutes in midday Florida sun for a fair-skinned human. After a few days, levels of beta-endorphin rose in the mice’s blood. Then the researchers rated pain tolerance, a marker of opioid dependence, using heat and touch. The UV mice had a pain threshold up to three times higher than mice that had not tanned. As levels of beta-endorphin rose, so did pain tolerance, suggesting the endorphin played a key role.

When the UV mice received an opioid blocker, their pain threshold reverted to normal, and they showed withdrawal symptoms such as shaking paws and chattering teeth. The mice even modified their behavior to avoid withdrawal: those that received opioid blockers in a dark box preferred to spend time in a white box, despite rodents’ natural penchant for darkness.

Humans and mice share these chemical processes, so the researchers believe beta-endorphin may cause addiction in people. Getting sun may be rewarding to the brain because we need vitamin D, explains David Fisher, a co-author of the study and director of the melanoma program at Mass General. Next Fisher hopes to investigate whether this pathway is involved in seasonal affective disorder, possibly providing a new therapeutic target.