Dopamine is vital to a healthy, happy and fulfilling life. Without it you may feel mood swings, fatigue, a lack of motivation, depression or a development of addictive behaviours. On the other hand, too much dopamine, especially when stimulant drugs are the cause, can lead to paranoia and psychosis. Today, many people have lowered levels of dopamine. This could be a result of a poor diet, high stress levels and an overall unhealthy environment. In the case of addiction and recovery, addicts may suffer from low dopamine levels. This can be an occurring problem during using as well as into sobriety. Without addressing it, there is a risk for developing emotional or mental health issues or enduring a relapse. You can increase dopamine levels without using drugs, which not only include illicit substances, but also anti-depressants and other mood medications.
There are over 86 billion neurons in the human brain. These are responsible for everything the body does and they communicate with one another through chemicals called neurotransmitters. Dopamine is one of these neurotransmitters and plays a role in different behaviours including movement, cognition, motivation, pleasure and productivity. Dopamine is an essential component for motor skills and the controlling of information exchange from one area in the brain to another.
In humans, reinforcing the effects of drugs and the desire to use more has been associated with more-than-normal, fast increases of dopamine. This activation leads to a surge in arousal, conditioned learning, motivation and attention. Concurrently, it raises the thresholds for dopamine in the body. This leads to a primary factor of addiction; that being, a tolerance to the drug of choice. Once a tolerance has developed, it will be difficult to stop using because of withdrawal symptoms and the inability to provide the brain with the necessary amounts of dopamine.
Excessive releases of dopamine, especially resulting from drug abuse, can lead to a dopamine sensitivity or overall reduction of dopamine levels. Amphetamine, cocaine or MDMA (molly) users are especially at risk for dopamine depletion after long term abuse. This can be temporary or permanent depending on the length of time and amount used as well as, genetic factors.
With addictions to opiates, benzodiazepines, CNS depressants and alcohol, low dopamine levels can occur; especially in the early stages of recovery. It can also be a consequence of neurodegenerative diseases and schizophrenia. Many experts believe while too much dopamine can cause problems, too little can be more problematic.
Dopamine is involved in numerous bodily functions as well as inner workings in the brain. Levels too low can lead to a plethora of symptoms which can have a direct effect on a person’s overall physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. The following are symptoms and signs of low dopamine levels. Keep in mind they do vary from person to person.
Whether you are an addict in recovery, an individual still battling a current drug addiction or family of someone who abuses substances, you may benefit from increasing your dopamine levels. Here are a few ways to increase your dopamine levels without drugs.
Sugar alters brain chemistry by causing a disruption in dopamine levels. Sugar stimulates the same pathway that drugs and alcohol does; hence it has a very similar effect and can cause a sugar addiction.
Tyrosine is an essential amino acid which turns into dopamine in the brain. It can be found naturally in meat, eggs, fish and parmesan cheese or through capsules.
Mucuna is also known as the velvet bean and contains L-DOPA which is the same biochemical made from tyrosine. Mucuna not only increases dopamine naturally, but also serotonin and norephinephrine, both neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation.
When you reach goal you set and worked hard to get to, the reward is a release of dopamine. Naturally, your brain will want you to seek out more and you feel ready to reach more of your goals.
Meditation alters concentrations of dopamine and other feel good chemicals in the brain. It can also increase your cognitive skills and ability to concentrate.
Maintain an effort to exercise at least 4 times a week. Find an activity you enjoy, especially one that is outdoors because sunlight also helps to increase dopamine levels.
Minerals like zinc and B-vitamins are necessary for the synthesis and transmission of dopamine. Many people lack these nutrients because the ability to synthesis them has been compromised due to inadequate diets, stress, environmental exposures and medications. A good multivitamin can help to replenish these nutrients and minerals; thereby increase dopamine levels.
Too much dopamine can be harmful. If you are trying to increase your dopamine levels without drugs, try one supplement at a time only (not including the foods). It’s also important to talk to a healthcare professional because some of these supplements can have an adverse reaction to antidepressants or antipsychotic drugs as well as supplements like St. John’s Wort, 5-HTP, Tryptophan, and SAMe medications.
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