This week, people who enjoy tanning salons learned that their hobby was an addiction just like drugs or booze. Researchers behind the study, The New York Times relayed, noticed "that several parts of the brain that play a role in addiction were activated when the subjects were exposed to UV rays." Those areas are referred to as "reward" areas of the brain. But, as Time's explained, when they "light up" they don't prove addiction, they just show enjoyment. So comparing people who enjoy tanning to addicts may be a bit of an exaggeration. She writes: "We do a disservice both to the understanding of the brain and to our decisions regarding drug treatment and policy when we think about it so simplistically."
The "thinking about it simplistically" part, to be fair, seemed aimed more at headline writers than researchers. And as"X is just like drug addiction" theme seems to be regular staple in the news. In these reports, the "addiction" part is played up--and not just in gambling, tobacco, drugs and alcohol related studies. A few of the brain-scanning addiction links we've noticed:
A romantic break up is like cocaine addiction We were among the many who relayed this bit of research last year. The Stony Brook University research team we cited noted "that brain imaging showed some similarities between romantic rejection and cocaine craving....The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that romantic love is a specific form of addiction."