Mandeep Kaur, M.D., lead author, giving an insight said "We had previously shown that ultraviolet light has an effect on mood that tanner's value. Now, in this small study, we've shown that some tanners actually experience withdrawal symptoms when the 'feel-good' chemicals are blocked."
As a part of the study, eight regular tanners were combined with eight irregular tanners, 8 to 15 tans a month being the yardstick for regular/frequent tanning and 12 times a year for irregular or infrequent tanning. The study basically aimed at testing the supposed theory that ultraviolet rays exposure is capable of producing endorphins, chemicals in the brain that lend feelings of positivism, elation and even provide relief from pain.
To check out whether endorphins could be propelling tanning inclination and behavior, half of the tanners were administered an inactive drug and another half were givn a drug to block the effects of endorphins and other opioids, which include narcotics such as morphine. The study participants tanned on UV beds and Non UV beds.
It was observed that at higher doses of the opioid-blocking medication (15 mg. of naltrexone), the regular tanners showed a decline in the preference for UV tanning. Some of the tanners also reported feelings of nausea, nervousness marked with edgy behavior. The irregular tanners, despite taking the drug, did not report any of the symptoms.
Steven Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., senior researcher and a professor of dermatology said, "The finding was unexpected and is consistent with the hypothesis that frequent tanning is may be driven in part by a mild dependence on opioids, most likely endorphins .The nausea and jitteriness induced by the medication are consistent with symptoms of mild opiate withdrawal."
This finding is extremely significant, due to its resemblance with other types of addictive/risky behaviors. The research is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology