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Exercise and addiction
Regardless of exactly which neurotransmitters are involved in runner's high, perhaps the more important question is whether the need for a buzz can cause dependency. Traditionally the measure of addiction to any substance has been whether withdrawal from it makes you physically sick, but some researchers now think that the true test is how it affects you mentally and emotionally.

"You might not actually be physically ill if you don't run," says George Koob, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Neuropharmacology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. "But if you feel miserable when you're not running even though you're damaging your body and wrecking your work and personal life [by doing so], you've crossed the line into addiction."

If your level of exercise is wreaking havoc on your life, clearly it's time to cut back and perhaps to seek counseling. But it seems unlikely that most of us need to worry about such a fate, if only because for most people exercise simply doesn't produce enough opiatelike substances to be dangerous or, apparently, to make us feel stoned. For this large majority, the high of exercise doesn't come from doing it, but from the feelings generated by health and fitness benefits that occur afterward. "If exercise was truly addicting, no one would put it off," says Duke's Doraiswamy. "Gym wait lists would be longer than those at the hottest restaurants, and doctors would go out of business from lack of patients. Everyone would be rail-thin."

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