What Is Dopamine And How Does It Affect Addiction?

Name five things you love doing. Whether it is shopping or eating your favorite food, what do you like to do? Now, think about the last time you did them. Was it yesterday? Or was it weeks ago? Or in another case, months ago? But why do you feel good after doing the things you love? There is a chemical in our brain working behind the scenes to release feelings of pleasure- Dopamine.

You know the feeling when you take the first bite of your favorite ice cream or when you finally get the dress or suit you wanted. The dopamine rush can be different for everyone. Similarly, an alcoholic gets the same dopamine rush when they take the first sip.

Drug addicts, when asked why they do drugs, express the feelings of pleasure the drug gives them. Dopamine produces feelings of happiness. It has led to reinforcing the brain’s demand for fun that leads to addiction. The dopamine releases for that activity. If there were a celebrity among brain chemicals, it would be dopamine. But if you see how intriguing dopamine is, a new world opens up.

What is Dopamine and What does it do?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter linked to elements of sensations and mood. It regulates the reward driver behavior and motivation. It belongs to the family catecholamine. Produced inside the brainstem, Dopamine releases from a brain tissue called substantia nigra.

Dopamine and the seeds of addiction

Dopamine is released into your brain as soon as it gives you a positive feeling. The brain takes the note of:

● Was it food that triggered the pleasurable sensation or a behavior? Or a substance?
● How can you feel the dopamine rush again? Did you experience it with a person?

The brain asks these questions making you have an urge to seek the same pleasure again. Dopamine plays an integral part in supporting the formation of self-destructive coping mechanisms. Whether it is food, alcohol, or drugs, dopamine plays the same part. The addictive substances cause an overload of Dopamine inside the brain, which causes the receptors less sensitive to it.

Our brain interprets addictive drugs as an unexpected pleasure-

The first ingestion of cocaine or the first sip of alcohol gives an immediate sensation releasing Dopamine in your brain. It leads to users relying more on the drug for the pleasurable feeling. Of course, having good memories associated with drugs will make you use them again and again. Even though you want to use drugs and alcohol to experience the dopamine rush, it is still substance abuse overall. Therefore, it is not possible to be addicted to Dopamine only.

Addiction is a Puzzle

Think about addiction as a puzzle. Dopamine plays a role in it, but it is just a smaller piece of the puzzle. Just like the pieces of a puzzle, some biological and environmental factors show someone’s risk of addiction.

Biological factors include:
● Health history- Having a medical condition related to mental health can increase the risk of drug addiction.
● Genes- With a recent research study on drug abuse, approximately 60% of addiction stems from genetic factors.

Environmental factors include:
● Homelife- Living with drug addicts increases the risk of addiction.
● Social influences- Having friends that take drugs increases the potential of developing an addiction.

The bottom line is, Dopamine is one of the many factors contributing to addiction. Contrary to popular opinion, you can’t be addicted to Dopamine itself. The first step for someone struggling with addiction is taking the road to recovery. It is time to agree that addiction isn’t a character flaw.

It takes more than willpower to overcome the problem. The road to recovery isn’t a straight path. You might relapse, and that’s okay. All you need to do is gather all the ounces of courage you have in your body and not give up.

When you relapse, don’t feel like a failure. Call your loved ones and seek support. When you are sober again and out of danger, see what triggered the release, what could be different the next time you are in the same position. Don’t expect perfection because then you are going to disappoint yourself. Setbacks are setbacks. Keep on the path to recovery.

Reach out to us today at 833-846-5669 if you require help with recovery and rehab.