Tanning bed use may be addictive

August 17, 2011

Frequent tanning bed users may have a neurological reward-and-reinforcement trigger similar to that seen in drug or alcohol abusers, Medical News Today reports.

Dallas - Frequent tanning bed users may have a neurological reward-and-reinforcement trigger similar to that seen in drug or alcohol abusers, Medical News Today reports.

Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center had participants use tanning beds on two separate occasions. On one occasion they were exposed to ultraviolet radiation; on the other, special filters blocked exposure. Participants were not told in which session they received the real or the filtered UV exposure. Before and after each session, participants were asked to rate their desire to tan and also were administered a compound that allowed researchers to measure brain blood flow during tanning.

Investigators found that participants’ brain activity and corresponding blood flow were similar to what has been observed in people addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Medical News Today quotes lead author Bryon Adinoff, M.D., as saying, “Using tanning beds has rewarding effects in the brain, so people may feel compelled to persist in the behavior, even though it’s bad for them. The implication is, ‘If it’s rewarding, then could it also be addictive?’ It’s an important question in the field.”

Dr. Adinoff says the next step is to create technology to further study brain changes among frequent tanners.

The study was published online in Addiction Biology.