cover image Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence

Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence

Anna Lembke. Dutton, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4672-8

Finding a balance between pain and pleasure is “essential for a life well lived,” writes psychiatrist Lembke (Drug Dealer MD) in this eye-opening survey on pleasure-seeking and addiction. Drawing on her experiences treating patients with various addictions, Lembke explains how the human brain’s pleasure center works and the effects of feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, and suggests the brain is “perfectly adapted to a world of scarcity.” However, the modern world is one marked by an “overwhelming abundance” (“The smartphone is the modern-day hypodermic needle,” she writes, “delivering digital dopamine 24/7”) and, as such, those who struggle with addiction “have evolved a wisdom perfectly suited to the age we live in now.” To break the cycle of addiction, Lembke recommends beginning with periods of abstinence and reminds readers that chasing pleasure and avoiding suffering leads, in the long run, to more pain. “We must be willing to move forward,” she writes, “despite being uncertain of what lies ahead.” Readers looking for balance will return to Lembke’s informative and fascinating guidance. Agent: Bonnie Solow, Solow Literary. (Aug.)