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  • Dopamine Nation

  • Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence
  • Written by: Dr. Anna Lembke
  • Narrated by: Dr. Anna Lembke
  • Length: 6 hrs and 11 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (417 ratings)

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Dopamine Nation

Written by: Dr. Anna Lembke
Narrated by: Dr. Anna Lembke
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Publisher's Summary

Instant New York Times and Los Angeles Times Best Seller

“Brilliant…riveting, scary, cogent, and cleverly argued.” (Beth Macy, author of Dopesick
As heard on Fresh Air)

This book is about pleasure. It’s also about pain. Most important, it’s about how to find the delicate balance between the two, and why now more than ever finding balance is essential. We’re living in a time of unprecedented access to high-reward, high-dopamine stimuli: drugs, food, news, gambling, shopping, gaming, texting, sexting, Facebooking, Instagramming, YouTubing, tweeting....

The increased numbers, variety, and potency is staggering. The smartphone is the modern-day hypodermic needle, delivering digital dopamine 24/7 for a wired generation. As such we’ve all become vulnerable to compulsive overconsumption.

In Dopamine Nation, Dr. Anna Lembke, psychiatrist and author, explores the exciting new scientific discoveries that explain why the relentless pursuit of pleasure leads to pain…and what to do about it. Condensing complex neuroscience into easy-to-understand metaphors, Lembke illustrates how finding contentment and connectedness means keeping dopamine in check. The lived experiences of her patients are the gripping fabric of her narrative. Their riveting stories of suffering and redemption give us all hope for managing our consumption and transforming our lives. In essence, Dopamine Nation shows that the secret to finding balance is combining the science of desire with the wisdom of recovery.

©2021 Dr. Anna Lembke (P)2021 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"Anna Lembke deeply understands an experience I hear about often in the therapy room at the nexus between our modern addictions and our primal brains. Her stories of guiding people to find a healthy balance between pleasure and pain have the power to transform your life.” (Lori Gottlieb, “Dear Therapist” columnist at The Atlantic, New York Times best-selling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone)

“Just when you thought you knew all you needed to know about the addiction crisis, along comes Dr. Anna Lembke with her second brilliant book on the topic - this one not about a drug but about the most powerful chemical of all: the dopamine that rules the pain and pleasure centers of our minds. In an era of overconsumption and instant gratification, Dopamine Nation explains the personal and societal price of being ruled by the next fix - and how to manage it. No matter what you might find yourself over-indulging in - from the internet to food to work to sex - you’ll find this book riveting, scary, cogent, and cleverly argued. Lembke weaves patient stories with research, in a voice that’s as empathetic as it is clear-eyed.” (Beth Macy, author of Washington Post Best Book of the Year, New York Times Notable Book of 2018, and best seller Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America

“We all desire a break from our routines and those parts of life that upset us. What if, instead of trying to escape these things, we learn to turn toward them, to reach a peaceful harmony with our selves and the people we share our lives with? Lembke has written a book that radically changes the way we think about mental illness, pleasure, pain, reward, and stress. Turn toward it. You’ll be happy you did.” (Daniel Levitin, New York Times best-selling author of The Organized Mind and Successful Aging

"Explore[s] the dichotomy between seeking a readily accessible hit of dopamine - from our phones, gambling, or a bag of Fritos - and maintaining healthy, productive, stable lives.” (The New York Times, Inside the Best-Seller List)

What listeners say about Dopamine Nation

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  • JMS
  • 2021-09-09

I listened to this audiobook on 1.4 X speed

*Note: complete review available on the Audiobook Reviews in Five Minutes Podcast*

What really sets apart Lembke’s ideas around addiction is her departure from the idea that addiction is always rooted in trauma or genetics. Addiction doesn’t always have a deep cause or origin story. Addiction is its own thing. We’re all vulnerable to some form of addictive behaviour at some point in our lives simply because we share the same dopamine-driven neural pathways.

Lembke has a pleasant, calming voice, but her narration is slow enough to put me in a napping mood, so I listened to this audiobook on 1.4 X the normal speed. Maybe admitting this reflects my own dopamine-seeking behaviour – to speed through content, but it’s hard to imagine anyone listening to this audiobook and not becoming more self-conscious about their tendencies toward endless phone scrolling, mindless snacking, or whatever it is you do to avoid boredom or seek out pleasure.

As a practicing therapist, Lembke includes patient anecdotes throughout her book, beginning with a heartbreakingly vivid example of a patient struggling with sex addiction. And Lembke admits to a period in her life where she became consumed by the urge to read romance novels and erotica to the point where she felt she had to give up her Kindle device, which seems both quaint and relatable in the grand scheme of addictions.

My criticism of this book is that Lembke doesn’t specify in detail what constitutes reasonable use for our addictive behaviours, which would have been interesting, and certainly helpful. Instead, she highlights well-worn advice for how to limit our use of problematic behaviours, like locking our phones away or restricting our access to social media. I wonder what she’d think of temptation bundling, the term coined by behavioral economist Katherine Milkman, which refers to pairing certain dopamine-chasing behaviours, such as scrolling on social media or watching Netflix, with habits we’re less excited about, like exercising on a stationary bike. I do this a few days a week, and it seems harmless enough.

Also, Lembke strongly advocates for periods of abstinence and even pursuing painful activities that have the potential to deliver dopamine after we do them, like going for a run, having an ice bath, talking to a stranger, or reading a book on philosophy. This prompts me to ask, what if you already feel intrinsically motivated to do some of these things? How do you know which painful activities to pursue, differentiating which ones are more likely to deliver meaningful experiences, let alone hits of dopamine afterward? Lembke doesn’t go into detail about this, which is unfortunate, because she DOES allude to self-harming activities and overexercise becoming a problem in and of themselves.

4 people found this helpful

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Great book

love it, great book with amazing examples. adiction comes in many ways not only drugs

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  • Dan
  • 2021-10-09

You had me at Dopamine

I recommend this book. Books where the authours narrate appeal to me. Self help books, not so much., but this is far more than that. It looks at dopamine as THE core of addiction, from her professional and personal experiences, and added greatly to a feel for the nature of this neurotransmitter. Pavlov's dogs' salivation is strikingly similar to the economic concept of "Credit", to me. While she doesn't deal with this aspect of dopamine, she does elevate its importance in understanding large sociological issues.

1 person found this helpful

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it's fine

This isn't a bad book it's just not very memorable. A few case examples fit great to explain the topics and are the most entertaining part of the book. It is entertaining at best and disjointed/boring at worse. Good enough to finish but not good enough to listen a second time.

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favourite book

I loved this books so much! I have a better understanding on my energy levels and have more control on my life. The stories of those people inspires me to keep improving every day and never take life for granted. A MUST READ!!

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So good!

Such an important and accessible take on our culture of hedonism. I live this book and am so thankful.

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very interesting

super informative, felt like the end of the book was a little less interesting

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Excellent!

I listened to most of this book in one go on a flight, then the rest the next day. I think there is something here for almost everyone in this crazy world of overstimulation we live in. It gave me hope, as I hope it will for you.

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a must read

I listened to this on repeat. It's an information packed gold mine. Highly recommend!!! A must have for any library

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everyone should read this

I've learned so much! I didn't know so many things qualify as addiction, I'm going to change some things in my life for sure!

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  • Chris
  • 2021-09-02

Interesting but feels incomplete

Dopamine Nation has a good balance of science and practical advice illustrated with interesting clinical anecdotes attempting to provide a picture of addictive behavior in modern society, I don't think it makes the best case for the proposition that "age of indulgence" behaviors are addictive in the same way as well-established addictive behaviors. Also, the plan of how to address this proposed problem is incomplete and it ends up presenting as doom-saying with very little in the way of solutions.

The connection between the well-accepted addictive behaviors which the anecdotes concern and the modern behaviors which are potentially addictive "age of indulgence" behaviors is a bit tenuous. We have really great stories of the recovery of a sex addict and two drug addicts, as well as the author's own short-live compulsive reading of romance novels. The romance novel thing illustrates how ostensibly mundane things are like addictions or potentially addictive. But, I think the book would have been helped by an anecdote of someone who has really suffered negative consequences due to video game addiction or social media addiction would have lent credibility to this idea. I'm still pretty unconvinced that the "age of indulgence" addictions are really that analogous to drug or sex addiction.

It would appear that the state of the science doesn't provide a complete recipe for recovery from addictive behavior and Dr. Lembke's obviously not to blame for that. But, to be complete, the book really needs anecdotal information and advice to fill-in the how recovery works gap. Instead, there's lengthy, detailed exploration of unconnected or contradictory ideas that ultimately don't go anywhere. For instance, the science indicates many people don't need the strictness of the 12-step model, but the 12-step model is strict to discourage free-riders to the benefit of the 12-step programs. But, that doesn't help recovery, so why would the reader care about the institutional advantage of 12-step to the disadvantage of addicts? Another example, ice baths or other pain-based quasi-ascetic practices may be useful as a treatment for addiction, but maybe they are also addictive actually. What does the reader do with that uncertain stance? And then, the exploration of recovery sort of peters out and many of the stories of the addicts don't really end conclusively with a point.

Having said all that, I don't see many books exploring these ideas and this is a decent book. I waffled on a 3 or a 4 for overall, as well as a 4 or 5 for story. The author's voice is real nice and I liked her narration.

33 people found this helpful

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  • D. Sooley
  • 2021-08-30

Very informative and comprehensive

I got this after hearing Lembke on Rich Roll. As an AA "old timer" I was curious to see how in depth she goes into the entire concept of 'recovery' in a world where quick fixes of dopamine are ubiquitous.

Anna is a very good speaker IMJ and the narration is excellent.

I can say that I did not 100% agree with everything presented here, but the self-imposed 'fences' and the like that addicts put up in order to try to wrestle control are interesting.

The basic premise is that pain and pleasure exists along the same neural pathway...so that too much of one will make the other stronger in a natural effort to stay in balance. I can definitely relate to that from my own experiences.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Eric Appleton
  • 2021-08-28

Unbelievably Candid — A Great Book

I heard about this book on Dr. Andrew Huberman’s podcast last week. I was eager to read the book after Dr. Huberman’s conversation with Dr. Lembke. The book absolutely exceeded my expectations. For starters, the book is a quick read and/or listen— I did a bit of both on this one. Dopamine Nation is full of valuable scientific and medical content (at least for a layperson), which is explained in a clear and concise manner. Valuable context is also given with the use of various real world examples. The author does an outstanding job of blending her personal experiences as a physician with the overwhelming, and in some cases unimaginable, trials of her patients. The author’s confessions about her personal failings, mistakes, feelings, and challenges are incredibly forthcoming and utterly refreshing. To see such an accomplished and credentialed person, who is an active professional in the medical field and academia, candidly share her experiences for the benefit of readers is almost unheard of lately. Few in such esteemed positions would have the courage to be so vulnerable. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in health and wellness—particularly brain health.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Waman S Mills
  • 2021-08-27

exceptional

I enjoyed every chapter of this book in a way I have never felt I could when trying to understand the pain of my addiction. It is hard to find a more informative and thought-provoking publication that also helps reinforce and re-think my own experiences. Thank you.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Evan L Englund
  • 2021-08-29

It's alright, but author has issues.

Okay, there's some genuinely good information in here. It could be covered just as well in a book half as long though.

The other half is the author digressing into anecdotes.

Throughout, WAY too many needless and questionable inserts of author's bizarre politics.
Narrator's condescending tone makes them simply ear splitting.

If it were free, might be a time waster.

Wouldn't pay money for it.

13 people found this helpful

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  • misty
  • 2021-08-25

Wow! Great book

Fantastic! Great book from start to finish. It was both interesting and also practical. Highly recommend for anyone who wants to change any addictive habit/behavior. I already started by deleting several apps on my phone.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Alyssa
  • 2021-08-25

Great listen, push thru the 1st chapter & u won't

You wont regret it.

Thoughtfully written & provides many perspectives.

Helped withmy current addiction.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Bkid
  • 2021-08-25

Fascinating, honest and an eye opener

Thank you Dr. Lembke,
Your book has given a name to symptoms I was unaware existed bringing clarity to the world we live in. I feel better prepared to help myself and help others as we navigate through emotions and behaviors in our Dopamine Nation. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

11 people found this helpful

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  • shubham
  • 2021-08-30

Beautiful, subtle, powerful!!

Absolutely loved the narration, content and the authenticity of the author. The stories shared are amazing. So much so that at times I kept getting pulled towards wanting the author to finish a recovery story instead of building to a lesson or an insight, further deepening it with another branch of a recovery story. And everytime I noticed I was missing the lesson for the curiosity of the story. Beautifully written, heartfelt authentic work.

All stories do come to a closure by the end. Had me tearing up in the parts of the book. The courage of the author and the stories moved me and the insights are amazing . Highly recommended!

9 people found this helpful

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  • Josephine Lefeburre
  • 2021-09-03

Amazing!!!

I devoured the book over three evening walks. scientific and personal, intimate and open. vulnerable and raw. And I allowed me to step I to foreign worlds of other people and yet with a self recognition. This book will make waves because it allows people to recognize themselves in the book; Just like the first step in healing is recognizing and admitting to the problem. The piece on telling the truth and how we all lie a little was very eye opening. Fantastic writing. Thank you, Dr. Lembke.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-10-23

Worth it

Good voice. worth the money. very anglo saxon minded. very interesting but not universal at all. the proofs given in the book to support the authors point are scientifically irrelevant