The business of addiction

Compulsive gaming, shopping, binge eating... This is how big business is turning our bad habits into addictions.

Limbic capitalism

Is capitalism turning us into addicts? According to historian and addiction expert David T. Courtwright, "limbic capitalism" – which refers to the part of the brain that deals with pleasure and motivation – cultivates our addictive behavior and bad habits for profit. Big Business has hijacked our limbic system, according to Courtwright. And with the explosion of technological innovation, addictions have greatly expanded.

Capitalism's evil twin

“When people talked about addiction, they talked about alcohol and heroin and maybe tobacco. But now people talk about addiction to social media, to tanning salons to gambling to shopping. The whole concept of addiction has expanded greatly. And that's really what I wanted to explore is how do we get to this situation where more and more things are at least potentially addictive? Limbic capitalism is basically capitalism's evil twin. It's not capitalism per se. Now, admittedly, there are a lot of things that can go wrong with capitalism. There is an extra set of special problems around addiction that characterize limbic capitalism. The really insidious thing about digital addictions is that the internet is now an opt-out technology. You have to make a conscious decision to opt out and be different and isolate yourself. In the mid 20th century, cigarette smoking was actually an opt-out technology. If you were a young person, you were considered weird if you didn't smoke. It was normal to smoke if you wanted to”, David Courtwright tells Brut.

Youth targeted

The average smartphone user touches their phone 2617 times a day based on data from Dscout. Various of ppl touching their phones and we spend an average of 5 years and 4 months of our lifetimes on social media according Mediakix. Youth are the primary target of limbic capitalism. With 50% of teens admitting to feeling addicted to their smartphone – phone addiction might be the new smoking according to information in line with Common Sense Media.