Is tanning comparable to a drug addiction?

December 14, 2011

Political Theory

I recently read an article from the NY Times about a possible change in the brain that tanning can cause.  Scientists are saying that the radiation that one is exposed to during a normal tanning session can become addictive.  I found this article extremely interesting because, according to the article, more than 300 million Americans use indoor tanning every year, even though they are well aware of the consequences.

“People who frequently use tanning beds experience changes in brain activity during their tanning sessions that mimic the patterns of drug addiction, new research shows.”

The article can be accessed here:

The study conducted by Dr. Byron Adinoff tested users brain activity during normal tanning sessions and other sessions when he had blocked only the UV rays, without telling those tanning. Results showed tanners weren’t as satisfied with their tanning sessions when the UV waves had been blocked.  The tanners somehow knew that their tanning session wasn’t as successful when they hadn’t been exposed to UV rays.

A study in 2005 did show that a large proportion of sunbathers met the psychiatric definition of a substance abuse disorder, based on their answers to a variation of a test often used to help diagnose alcohol addiction.

Another NY Times article is quoted as saying that 1 in 5 college students, and 70% of indoor tanners are UV abusers.

In addition, California has recently passed a law that bans indoor tanning from anyone under the age of 18, even with parental consent.

I have to be honest. I do participate in indoor tanning throughout the colder months in Michigan because I like to have a little color and have found that tanning helps keep my skin nice.  However, I wouldn’t consider tanning an addiction at all.  When I am too busy to tan, I don’t tan.  I never feel any sort of “need” to go tanning, and I have gone extended periods of time without tanning.

What is your take on these articles and indoor tanning in general? If you currently tan, would you consider it an addiction? Do you think tanning can be compared to a drug or alcohol addiction?



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8 Comments on “Is tanning comparable to a drug addiction?”

  1. mcdonmeg Says:

    I found this article very interesting, because I am also a frequent user of the tanning beds. I also go tanning during the winter months in Michigan because I like to have some color on my skin, and since winter in Michigan is so gloomy I like to go tanning and it be bright and to feel warm. However, I think the argument could go either way. I agree that in moderations that its not addictive, and that if you are fine without going then you aren’t an addict. However, I think the desire of having tan skin can be addictive. Either way though there are worse things to be addicted to even if tanning is an addiction. The only downfall is that tanning can cause skin cancer, therefore making it a deadly addiction.

  2. William Burton Says:

    It may very well be that tanning is addicting to some people, but I doubt that it is the radiation that people become addicted to. Often times when people quiet doing drugs or drinking, they will replace their addiction with an activity. in particular, some former drug addicts develop a kind of addiction to exorcise. not that exorcise puts anything into the body, but as activities that people do every day, drug use, exorcise, and even tanning can become ‘addictive’ not just because a person is actually addicted to a substance, but because of the parts of the human brain that crave consistency and routine. possibly, I don’t really know, I’m not a doctor.

  3. andgoldberg Says:

    I personally believe that indoor tanning beds are not addictive at all. If they were considered addictive then a person who loves going to the beach every weekend to tan would then be “addicted” to going to the beach. An addiction comes from being reliant on something. It would require very little minimal effort to yearn someone off indoor tanning compared to something as serious as heroine. Don’t governments have better issues to settle with their time?

  4. nozomigg Says:

    Well, I’m not sure how this article has any relevance to political science, but I found interesting anyway.
    I don’t think tanning is an addiction, but I don’t think that that doesn’t mean it CAN’T be addictive. Alcoholism is an addiction; just because most people can drink on the weekends for fun and not be addicted shouldn’t deny the existence of the disease that may come from it. “Tanorexia” has been rumored and made fun of for a long time, and although it’s not taken seriously, I do think that it actually has potential to be a real thing. Studies have shown that your body can get addicted to anything. Why would tanning be any different?
    I also think the the study is flawed, because the success of the study is too dependent on the placebo effect. Looking at the study from a different light could just show the effects of placebo on patients, as opposed to effects of UV. The results have too many interpretations.

  5. schoiidaho Says:

    I am not too sure to think whether UV tanning is should be considered as an addiction or not, although this study is from NY Times, a very legitimate source. However, I do have to say that this study makes sense. According to the article, it states that tanning stimulates a brain activity, which patterns look just like when a person is on drugs. Also, it mentions that millions of people still tan while well aware of the consequences.
    From what I know, when people get hooked on drugs, they have to keep using it because they enjoy the feelings they get while on it. Drugs altar the brain in some way, and this is the sensation the drug addicts constantly chase after. Tanning addiction can be explained this way as well, if it does in fact stimulate a similar brain activity. Tanning addicts might just want to go after that feeling.
    In addition, everyone knows that dugs are bad, and eventually they will destroy your body. People well know the consequences, but do it regardless. Tanners are very much aware that excess UV ray is bad but do it anyway, regardless of whether it actually stimulates a special sensation from the brain activity or they just enjoy having a nice colored skin.

  6. jps3520 Says:

    I don’t tan really indoors or out, but I can see how it could be seen as an addiction or at least be compared to an eating disorder. People tan because they aren’t content with the state that they’re currently at. Much like a drug addiction, where the user may not be content with the way their life is going and want something to change it, if only for a little while. Another thing that makes them similar is that people use them know that there are consequences and use them anyway. In tanning, you’ve got the possibility of a skin disease, and with drugs you’ve got a variety of problems. I actually just saw this video, and it’s relevant: There are people out there whose lives are changed severely by sun exposure, it affects the people around them as well, much like drugs.

    Addiction has different levels, so I don’t believe that everyone who tans every once in a while is addicted to it, but that person who goes all the time and has that really deep tan all year long might be. Those who aren’t “addicted” could be compared to self-named recreational drug users.

    I don’t think that they are the exactly comparable in severity, but I can see why someone drew a line between the two.

  7. abswang Says:

    I don’t think tanning itself is addictive, but possibly the mentality of keeping oneself groomed and well kept. In our society, being tan is something that makes someone more attractive. Whether this is true or not, if someone wants to do their best to look their best, they’re going to do all that they can. I don’t necessarily think they’re addicted to it, but I think they like maintaining their reputation and presentation.

  8. lmaren Says:

    With moderation, tanning is just fine. A tanning addiction is completely different from a drug addiction. Tanning addiction is just in your head. Your brain says that you need because it wants it to feel good about itself. With drugs, you physically need the drugs if you are addicted. You will do anything in your power to have those drugs. Otherwise, you get sick and can’t function. It is hard to compare tanning to a drug because they are very different and are clearly used for different reasons.

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