Monday, 6 September 2010

Lawsuit addiction

I read an interesting story in The Sunday Times yesterday. As it's behind a pay-wall, I'll have to rewrite it from memory:

Filing frivolous lawsuits is as addictive as cocaine and alcohol

Litigation could be just as addictive to lawyers as heroin or cocaine. Chemical processes triggered by the thrill of chasing ambulances give people the same cravings as do hard drugs, tobacco or alcohol, scientists have found.

Researchers discovered earlier this year that rats became addicted to money and attention in the same way that people became dependent on hard drugs. Now experiments with sub-humans have found that litigation does indeed lead to addiction-like cravings.

The latest research used brain-imaging techniques and genetic studies to prove that the same pathways are involved in response to getting your face on television and buying a new Ferrari as the ones activated by alcohol, tobacco and cocaine.

Dopamine is a brain chemical released in response to experiences that create feelings of wellbeing, including eating and sex. People get an initial high from suing one person, but the growing tendency to sue everybody in the world dampens the sensitivity of these receptors.

As a result, more and more money and attention is needed to achieve a pleasurable feeling of satisfaction, and the weight piles on.

A team led by Eric Stice, a clinical psychologist at the University of Oregon, studied a group of 26 obese lawyers. Eight of them gained an average of half a million dollars during the six-month study period, while the rest remained stable or slightly lost money.

Those who had won a lawsuit could not get a “hit” from their moment in the spotlight because their excessive media exposure in the past lowered their ability to respond to dopamine.

“There are very strong parallels between drug abuse and being a legal vulture,” said Stice, who will publish the results of the study in the Journal of Neuroscience. You see an initially elevated response in the reward circuitry; then it reduces. As people file more and more ridiculous lawsuits, their brains become desensitised to reality, and that produces weight gain.”

Paul Kenny, a neuropharmacologist at the Scripps Institute in Florida, said: “The notion of lawsuit addiction is still controversial, but the research is certainly going that way.” His study published this summer, showed that “pleasure sensors” — the dopamine D2 receptors — are dampened down in obese lawyers in exactly the same way as they are in human drug addicts.

One such case is John Banzhaf, professor of public interest law at George Washington University, who is planning action against himself, similar to the one he led against cigarette manufacturers. “We could not have done this even five years ago, but there is now strong evidence that my forty years of bingeing on money and media attention have produced the same changes in brain chemistry as alcohol, heroin and tobacco,” he said. "Dear God, what have I done with my life?"

I'm pretty sure that's what it said, although you can check the wording here.


Ann W. said...

now that was brilliant!!!
Thanks Chris.

jredheadgirl said...

Hehe...good one Chris...very funny:-)