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In an age of abundance, our dopamine fixes (yes, like your phone) may be making us unhappy

Dr. Anna Lembke, author of 'Dopamine Nation'
Photo by Steve Fisch
Dr. Anna Lembke, author of "Dopamine Nation."

Editor's Note: This conversation originally aired Sept. 29, 2021.

Rates of depression and anxiety in America are on the rise, yet we live in an age of abundance and safety when compared to our happier ancestors. So, what’s going on?

One psychiatrist and addiction specialist believes it could be that we’re overdosing on dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter produced by our bodies that floods the brain with pleasure.

But we also get those dopamine fixes through our pursuits of alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex social media and our phones.

Since even those without a history of addiction are vulnerable, we look at this phenomenon and why the pursuit of happiness is making us miserable.


Dr. Anna Lembke, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine and chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic. Author of "Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence".

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Erin Keever is Senior Producer of WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. She has been with the show since joining the station in 2006. She's a native Charlottean.