McSweeney’s: My Neurotransmitter Abuse Problem
Mom, Dad, please listen, I—I’m sorry, this is hard for me to say, but I’ve developed a substance problem, and I need your help. I’m at the point where there are only two things in the world that make me feel happy anymore: serotonin and dopamine.
I know, I know.
Frankly, I can’t even remember doing anything without them—I understand that can be hard to believe—It’s just I can’t enjoy anything anymore unless I’m spraying serotonin and dopamine along the synapses of my reward circuitry to generate the neuropsychological perception of pleasure.
Well, let’s see, I’ve been using everyday for, oh Jesus, I don’t even know how long anymore. And not just for getting glad, for doing normal stuff, too—like forming memories and breathing and moving my arms. It would feel weird now doing anything without biogenic amines.
Huh? Oh, that’s just what we call them on the street to indicate their chemical structure.
Why didn’t I tell you years ago? Well, to be honest, I didn’t think you’d want to hear it. I didn’t think you’d understand—Mom, please stop crying—I didn’t think you’d understand, because they’re part of a pretty complex chemical system, and quite frankly, cutting-edge neuroscience doesn’t really understand them yet, either.
So please don’t judge me before you understand, I’m trying my best to get better.
This isn’t a phase—Mom, please, just listen—I’ve been using them every day since I was born. Some say I was even abusing them even in utero—but that’s still hotly debated and so far has only been statistically significant in third-trimester prenatal females of Western European descent.
I’m so sorry.
It’s not just once in a while, guys, it’s all the time. Everything we’ve ever done together where I looked happy, you know that look—the crescent eyes, the bared teeth, the joking and laughing with energy—I was using. I was. You name it, I was using. Grammie’s 80th birthday, going to the City aquarium, eating a sandwich—doesn’t matter. Look, if I was feeling joyful, I was using, okay?
Yes, even Ronnie’s Bar Mitzvah. You think I wasn’t in high spirits at my own brother’s celebration? You better believe I was basal ganglia-deep in the strongest amines neurons can synthesize. But I’m still your son, and I’m still your little boy—I just have a problem.
Nah, I can’t just go cold turkey, I would almost instantly enter a coma and develop late-stage Parkinson’s disease. Plus some guys I know said this other guy Ricky tried to jump on the wagon, but he couldn’t, because the medical procedure for isolating and degrading specific neurotransmitters doesn’t exist yet.
It’s not my fault! The technical complications remain prohibitive. Christ, Mom!
No, I don’t just use any biogenic amines, I’m safe about it. I only hit pure mesolimbic, none of that parietal scrag you see those sad-sack teen dopers squeezing in during adolescent neural development.
Where do I get it? Ha! What, so you can get some yourself? Sorry, just a joke, Dad.
I said I’m sorry!
Look, don’t try to act like you didn’t use dopamine and serotonin when you were my age.
Sure I understand if you never feel happiness or find anything new or rewarding now, but you went to college in the sixties, I’m not stupid.
And gee, you think growing up in this house, I never saw you guys coordinating your muscle fiber stimulation to maintain standing posture? Does the word acetylcholine mean anything to you?
Yeah, that’s what I thought, Barbara. Get off your high horse!
You know what, forget this, if you won’t help me, then no one will! Where’s something novel or rewarding?—hand me that sandwich, I need my fix!