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UV Addiction

June 30, 2014

UV light may have an opiate-like effect, leading to addiction and even withdrawal symptoms.



Evidence for a UV high. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Ultraviolet light may act like an addictive drug. This according to David Fisher, chair of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He says habitual tanners show some hallmarks of addiction, and prior evidence suggested a link to the opiate pathway – which is also activated by drugs like heroin. Now, in mouse studies, his team showed that even mild UV exposure releases a natural opiate called beta-endorphin, numbing pain and other sensations. Opiate-blocking drugs abruptly stopped this effect.

DAVID FISHER (Massachusetts General Hospital):

And what we observed is that the mice started to exhibit very clear symptoms, quantifiable symptoms, of withdrawal.

What’s more, mice that couldn’t produce beta-endorphin were immune to the effect entirely. The results could help explain why some people feel drawn to tanning, even though they know it’s unhealthy. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.