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Tanning Addictive Like Alcohol or Drugs?

answered 01:34 AM EST, Wed June 27, 2012
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anonymous anonymous
I do indoor tanning about twice a week and I have been an indoor tanner for about 4 years. I am now 22. I know it’s bad for me but I like the way I look tanned and I find tanning relaxing and enjoyable. I don’t have the money to go to beach holidays but nobody gives people who go and lie on a beach a hard time so whats the difference? There are a lot of stories going on right now about people getting addicted to tanning. How do I know if I am one of them?

Delisted Expert Says...

Indoor tanning has received strong attention in the media and research literature as causing more problems than damaged skin from excessive exposure. There is growing evidence that indoor tanning, involving UV radiation, may be addictive like alcohol and drugs. How does this happen?

Current research shows that indoor tanning taps in to the brain reward center like addictive substances. With indoor tanning, the same areas of the brain, i.e. brain's dorsal striatum region and the medial orbitofrontal cortex (each of which plays a role in reward and reinforcement) are activated and light up. When the brain has this type of reaction, there is a strong potential for addiction. For more information about this, go to this website:


Other articles which discuss indoor tanning as an addiction can be found at:




The addictive quality found in people who are indoor tanners can be easily seen in people who have skin cancer or skin cancer surgeries and continue to expose themselves to the UV radiation associated with indoor tanning. The interesting correlation, in one study cited above, showed that people who abuse alcohol and/or drugs are more likely to abuse or be addicted to indoor tanning.

How can you know if you are addicted to indoor tanning? According to one doctor, you know if you are addicted when you continue to expose yourself to damaging or harmful effects of RA radiation after you have experienced harm. In other words, addicts continue to use despite the adverse consequences of their addiction. If you do not have any adverse effects that you are ignoring, and you are able to tan in moderation, you may not have an addiction to indoor tanning.

I hope this has been helpful to you. I do appreciate your question and honesty. If I can be of service to you, please let me know.


John W. O’Neal, Ed.S, MSW, MA LPC, NCC

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Page last updated Jun 27, 2012

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