The Role of Dopamine in Addiction Development

The Role of Dopamine in Addiction DevelopmentDopamine is possibly one of the most powerful chemicals, as it dictates your level of happiness and sense of success. Without it, your mood and behavior might take a drastic turn for the worse. As a neurotransmitter, dopamine sends signals to the other nerves in the brain to signal success. For example, getting an A+ on a test will make you feel rewarded, because the brain releases dopamine upon seeing your grade, which signals other nerves that something positive happened. Without this kind of communication between dopamine and the nerves, people would feel much less about everyday successes.

Substances That Impact Dopamine Production

When misusing substances, the substance of choice may easily replace the brain’s need to produce dopamine, as the presence of the drug stops the brain from producing this neurotransmitter. Continual use can become a detriment of all dopamine production, even after use has been discontinued. Addictions to the following can devastate a person’s sense of pleasure:

  • Opiates: Heroin, morphine, codeine and other opiates are highly addictive. One of the reasons for this is that these drugs stop the brain’s production of dopamine which makes it impossible for addicts to feel happy without using drugs. As this occurs, it usually encourages more drug use, as well as side effects such as depression and anxiety.
  • Pornography: While not a substance, pornography and someone’s reaction to it can affect the brain’s production of dopamine. As a matter of fact, consistently viewing pornography can actually damage the brain, as it quickly becomes desensitized to erotic images. This makes it more difficult for users to become aroused. Addiction to pornography is linked to dopamine, because the more the person feels rewarded from arousal, the more he wants that feeling, which increases dopamine.
  • Alcohol: Even though alcohol is a depressant, it still impacts the brain’s levels of dopamine. For example, drinking might make people extremely euphoric at first, but by the end of a binge, the brain is overly stimulated and needs rest. At this time, it stops producing dopamine.

Any time a chemical or action impacts brain function, it can have negative effects. To prevent your levels of dopamine from dropping and stopping, it is important to steer clear of addictive behaviors that can solicit this response. It is much easier to impact dopamine levels than you may think, so the best and most positive way to maintain healthy levels is through exercise and avoiding drugs. These positive behaviors may result in the proper amount of dopamine in the brain, creating feelings of reward and satisfaction without addictive behaviors.

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