At Clearbrook Massachusetts, we understand the role of dopamine in addiction is significant. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that is used by the central nervous system to relay messages between neurons. Dopamine also regulates functions like sleep, metabolism, and mood. This neurotransmitter in particular is greatly responsible for the surge of pleasure, sense of well-being, and euphoria that we feel when we do certain things, like exercise. Dopamine and drugs are linked because of how drugs affect neurotransmitters in the brain. Most drugs of abuse are known to increase dopamine levels in the brain, specifically in the nucleus accumbens. As a result, the brain undergoes a series of changes that contribute to addiction.
What Drugs Release Dopamine in the Brain?
Certain drugs, known as dopamine agonist drugs, specifically target the central nervous system and cause spikes in dopamine levels. Some of these drugs are illegal and others are commonly prescribed medications.
Some of the most commonly abused drugs that increase dopamine levels include:
Alcohol can also activate the release of dopamine in the brain. High dopamine levels that are caused by drug or alcohol abuse contribute to dependence. While the individual may not become automatically addicted to these substances within the first use, their effects on dopamine are what hook users. At Clearbrook Treatment Centers Massachusetts, we offer a medical detox that helps patients safely wean off of drugs and alcohol, promoting healthy recovery.
What Is the Role of Dopamine in Addiction?
Dopamine’s role in addiction is linked to the pleasure and high caused by drugs and alcohol. The early draw of drugs for most people is the high or euphoria they experience. Drug highs occur when the brain’s reward center is stimulated. The main neurotransmitter that causes stimulation in this area of the brain is dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, euphoria, and reward. Dopamine naturally encourages life-sustaining behaviors like eating by producing a sense of pleasure when the behavior occurs. Certain drugs and alcohol can artificially create this pleasurable sensation by increasing dopamine levels, resulting in a high. This high is what people become accustomed to feeling.
Because drugs that affect dopamine do so artificially, the high users experience in their first use doesn’t always happen as immediately in future uses. As a person continues to use their drug of choice, their body will develop a tolerance to it. This means that they’ll have to use more of that drug to experience the same side effects or surge in dopamine. As this pattern of behavior repeats, their body will eventually become dependent on it. Because dopamine is also related to mood and emotion, chronic drug abuse can also cause psychological dependence. Simply put, addiction is a byproduct of chasing that first high that dopamine caused.
Drugs and alcohol can cause physical damage, relationship problems, legal issues, and financial struggles. Our Massachusetts drug rehab incorporates the Minnesota Model of addiction treatment alongside a variety of other modalities to ensure our patients achieve their recovery goals.