The Molecule of More by Daniel Z. Lieberman and Michael E. Long is a fascinating exploration of the role that dopamine plays in human behavior. This book focuses on how dopamine, also known as the “molecule of more,” impacts our lives from day-to-day decisions to large-scale societal trends and habits. Together they have created a captivating examination of understanding dopamine and how it can help us better understand ourselves both individually and collectively within society today. The authors assess many aspects of this unique, life-changing neurotransmitter; and unpack the benefits and dysfunction that motivate many decisions we make on a daily basis.
I really enjoyed this book but I would not say it gave me a dopamine rush. It was extremely interesting and I love learning about behaviors, especially my own. Like many books I’ve read in this program, I am motivated for self-improvement but often I feel convicted of the negative impacts and slightly embarrassed of my guilty pleasures and addictions. I have noticed that I tend to believe that I either have control over it, or I have convinced myself that it is not affecting anything that “matters.” I learned that the small things are slightly more dangerous and have me struggling a little this week. I’m not addicted to drugs, I don’t cheat on my wife, and I am not an “adrenaline junkie,” however, I lack self-control in many other areas such as energy drinks, over-working, over-committing, and I believe the Spirit is pressing on me to find my satisfaction in Christ alone.
My wife is a medical doctor as many of you know, and she on the other hand had an extreme dopamine charge when I mentioned the topic this week and summarized the book for her. She is an expert in neurobiology and I really enjoyed her explanation of the science, the role of dopamine, HDS, compulsive cycles, and her take on God’s amazing biology. She echoed many of the points Lieberman and Long addressed and was two steps ahead of me on anything I could add to the discussion. This book created a great opportunity for the two of us to reflect on our own motivations as both a couple and leaders.
One area in The Molecule of More that stood out to me is its exploration of how dopamine affects human behavior when it comes to relationships between people or groups of people such as love or politics. By understanding what drives each person’s motivations within any given relationship dynamic, one has better insight into why certain behaviors are exhibited by either party involved; allowing them to make decisions based on observations rather than assumptions about what would be optimal. In addition, the authors discuss various ways individuals can increase their levels of motivation both internally (such as setting goals) and externally (like seeking out new experiences) all while keeping balance with other aspects of life such as family and work/life balance.
Going into this book, I assumed dopamine was simply a gratification release and was surprised to learn that “dopamine isn’t about pleasure at all. Dopamine delivers a feeling much more influential.” This concept identified early in the book is what really triggered my personal self-assessment throughout the reading. It reminded me that God already created us with everything we could possibly need. We often think that we need a pill, a drink, or excitement, but the anticipation of it all, or what we believe it will provide, triggers our motivation or behavior. We create habits and form addictions and before long, we’re stuck physically in a cycle of detrimental conduct. This is where we need to seek the “bread of life” and not supplement it with worldly alternatives. It is the only place we will find true satisfaction. We’re reminded of this in John 6:35 and I believe there is a much deeper message than just food and water in this passage.
There is definitely a dark side to dopamine that is a tad frightening to me. The fact that dopamine supports addictions through a chemical response of positive reinforcement from my brain does not sit well with a control freak like me. My wife helped, and scared me when she said “dopamine plays a major role in regulating motivation and pleasure-seeking behavior; however, too much dopamine can have negative consequences on mental health as well as physical health outcomes such as heart disease or diabetes.” For example, “people with addictions often have higher levels of dopamine than those without them due to repeated exposure to drugs or activities that trigger large releases of the neurotransmitter (such as gambling). This excessive release leads to impulsive behavior which further reinforces addictive patterns even if they are not beneficial long-term goals – ultimately leading down a path towards destruction rather than progressiveness.”
I pressed into this and learned from both her and the authors that in addition to addiction issues caused by overstimulation from too much dopamine production, there are several other potential dangers associated with this molecule. Among those include increased risk-taking behaviors due to a lack of inhibition control resulting from high amounts being present within one’s body chemistry. Also, elevated dopaminergic states increase anxiety and depression, stemming from difficulty managing stressors and emotional regulation problems. Furthermore, diminished cognitive performance manifests, making it more difficult to focus on tasks requiring concentration and attention span needed to complete objectives efficiently.
Overall, I feel blessed to have become aware of the negative effects of dopamine as much as I appreciate the benefits. The Molecule of More provides readers valuable insight into darker aspects surrounding this important chemical messenger found throughout human biology. This book offers individuals a deeper understanding of both psychological and physiological functioning. In conclusion, it is clear to me that we must “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and have faith, discipline, sacrifice, and humbleness to His plan.
 Lieberman, Daniel Z, and Michael E Long. 2019. The Molecule of More : How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity-and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race. Dallas, Tx: Benbella Books, Inc.
 John 6:35
 Nicole O’Neill, MD
 Matt. 6:33