In a recent program on strange addictions, a list of people was shown with addictions to some very strange things. One man was quite literally addicted to shopping, travelling the world to find new products that he never used. A woman was addicted to sex and would sleep with random people, unable to have a platonic relationship with men or women. I was then very surprised to see a BASE jumper and the program theorized that BASE jumpers are addicts. So is BASE jumping an addiction, or a valid sport?
What Constitutes an Addiction?
There are in essence two types of addictions:
- Physical addictions, where you become addicted to a product or substance that goes into your body and you experience physical symptoms if you stop using the product.
- Psychological addictions, where you become addicted to the feelings that something gives you, whether this is by an action or a product.
Many addictions are both physical and psychological. Adrenaline is a hormone that is created in the body when you expose yourself to certain risks. It is not a substance that you can become addicted to, in as such that you experience physical withdrawal symptoms if you stop placing yourself in situations that cause increased levels of adrenaline. Hence, an addiction to adrenaline is a psychological addiction. This does not mean that it is any less or more difficult to kick the habit though.
Adrenaline Junkies and BASE Jumping
Adrenaline junkies are described as people that go for the thrill of putting themselves in situations where they have increased levels of adrenaline, and extreme sports generally do provide this. An adrenaline rush is when your body experiences the fight or flight response. At the same time, a huge surge of dopamine is released, the same substance that is released by many drugs, including XTC for example.
BASE jumping, as well as many other extreme sports, release a huge surge of adrenaline, which is why those who take part in this sport are described as adrenaline junkies.
Are BASE Jumpers Addicts?
The program really described people who take part in BASE jumping as addicts. According to the program, BASE jumpers take unnecessary risks, simply because they want to feel the rush of adrenaline and associated rush of dopamine. Personally, I disagree. I think BASE jumping is a valid sport, with an adrenaline rush as a bonus.
The program also used the fact that BASE jumping is illegal in many countries yet is still practiced as evidence that it is an uncontrollable addiction. I disagree. Yes, BASE jumping may not be legal in certain locations, but that does not mean that the location in question isn’t a fantastic BASE jumping spot. It isn’t done because of an uncontrollable urge, but more because the platform is so fantastic. After all, would there be world championships in a sport that is actually an addiction, and if BASE jumping is an addiction, surely most extreme sports are too. What do you think?
Creative Commons photo by Santi Molina