Reward & Motivation
Dopamine regulates these functions of our brain. The experience of reward and motivation are associated with survival and regulated by the body’s release and re-uptake of dopamine neurotransmitters.
Dopamine plays a role in addiction.
The limbic system in the brain floods with dopamine and this causes the body to feel rewarded by encouraging current activity. It is not the dopamine itself creating the positive feeling, instead it is conditioning the body to believe that whatever you are doing is “rewarding” so you should continue doing it as a means towards survival.
The boost in dopamine is triggered by the drug ingested into the body and it conditions the body to look forward to ingesting the drug, creating this cycle of dependence.
Dopamine levels are self-regulated by the body through the processes of ”up-regulation” and “down-regulation”. The body never produces more dopamine, the levels are typically consistent at all times, the body works to ensure this.
Some dopamine binds to the synapses in your brain and the rest is re-absorbed back into your body.
This mechanism is regulated by either “up-regulation” in which more dopamine is binding to your synapses and less is being re-absorbed back into your body or by way of “down-regulation” in which less dopamine is binding to the synapses in your brain and more is being re-absorbed into your body and recycled.
Certain drugs are classified as “Selective Dopamine Re-Uptake Inhibitors” because they increase the level at which dopamine is binding to the synapses in the brain by blocking the re-absorption of dopamine into the body to be recycled, this creates a flood.
The body has these mechanisms in place to maintain a balance of dopamine and receptor cell levels. Creating this balance, assuming the body has healthy levels of other vitamins and minerals and we aren’t taking drugs that interfere with this regulation, typically takes 4-8 weeks.
These means that addiction is something we can recover from if we take care of ourselves for 4-8 weeks.
Given the nature of our life and the world we live in that is easily said than done which is why addiction is a complex disorder that may require help from a medical professional. Perfect conditions are never guaranteed and so to help our own body to do its job in light of everything we may be going through, we may need guidance from a professional, but it is good to know how the processes our body goes through to keep us at a healthy functioning baseline.
Dopamine Can Be Found In Supplements & Food
The brain requires “precursors” in order to synthesize dopamine. These precursors can be found in the everyday food we eat. Dopamine does not go directly to our brain’s receptors. Instead the precursors needed by the body to produce dopamine can pass through the blood/brain barrier and then be converted effectively to produce the balance of dopamine the body needs in order to function effectually.
Foods or supplements containing the amino acids L-Tyrosine & L-Phenylalanine are associated with a boost in the body’s dopamine levels.
The body converts these amino acids into dopamine naturally.
We can find these amino acids in foods we consume regularly.
L-Tyrosine can be synthesized by the body using Phenylalanine and it is typically found in high protein food sources, such as spinach, eggs, turkey, almonds, avocados, bananas, and soy products. If you have an allergy to any of these, you can also purchase L-Tyrosine supplements.
Dopamine is an extremely important hormone the body works to regulate in order to contribute to our overall health and well-being. Very similar to serotonin, the body regulates very even levels naturally, the use of drugs or other substances may disrupt this and so abstinence for at least 4-8 weeks gives the body time to recuperate and keep us going.
It is always good to speak with a mental health professional if you do have concerns or wish to learn more. There are psychiatric disorders that interfere with these levels and so it’s good to consult with a psychiatrist so they may help you if you feel you are struggling. You are not alone, please feel free to speak with one of our mental health professionals below.
Disclaimer: All information, content, and material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.