The Downside Of Dopamine
Different amounts of dopamine are released depending on the task we are doing. The brain prioritizes different amount of dopamine depending on the activities, which means that we get more dopamine from some activities and less from others. If an activity gives less dopamine it results in less motivation, and vice versa.
The activities that the brain wants us to prioritize, and therefore release more dopamine, are the ones where we anticipate that there is a potential reward. For example, scrolling on Instagram or TikTok we want to keep scrolling because we anticipate a reward.
The downside is that the brain doesnt care about our wellbeing or our future success. It only wants more and more dopamine even though it knows that it is not doing us any favors.
Addiction Behavioral Impacts & Signs Of Chemical Imbalance
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as not only a behavioral disorder, but also as a brain disease that impacts brain chemistry and circuitry and results in compulsive drug-seeking and drug-using behaviors that interfere with daily functioning. A high level of drug dependency, co-occurring medical or mental health disorders, polydrug abuse, family history of addiction, high levels of stress, experience of trauma, and low level of support at home can all contribute to the onset of addiction.
When addiction is present, dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters affected by drug abuse may no longer be produced, transmitted, and absorbed the way they were before introduction of the drugs. Neurons may be damaged, and the regular functioning of these chemical messengers is impeded. It may then be difficult to feel pleasure from normal and everyday activities. Depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, trouble with memory and cognitive functions, difficulties regulating moods, and issues controlling cravings may arise without the interaction of drugs.
Substance Abuse Treatments Detox & Outlook
Once the brain has become imbalanced due to drug abuse and dependence, it can take some time and effort to restore things. Cravings and emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms can be significant with some drugs, they may be dangerous or even life-threatening. The safest method to restore a chemical balance to the brain is through medical detox.
Detox is the process of allowing toxins to make their way out of the brain and body, allowing for proper healing. Medical detox is the most comprehensive form of detox. It provides 24/7 medical and mental health monitoring and supervision in a controlled and secure environment.
Different drugs may process out of the body at variable timelines, and side effects can range greatly in intensity during detox. On average, a person will remain in a medical detox program for several days to a week or two. Medications are often used to counteract withdrawal symptoms and manage drug cravings.
Some drugs, like opioids and benzodiazepines, should not be stopped cold turkey and are often either tapered off slowly or replaced with a longer-acting agonist medication during detox, which is then carefully weaned off to minimize withdrawal symptoms. The goal of detox is to help an individual reach a level of physical stabilization and prepare them for admission into an addiction treatment program.
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How Can I Improve My Dopamine Levels In A Natural Way
You may wish to try remedies that naturally increase dopamine. Further research is needed on the effects of food on neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
- Eat a diet thats high in magnesium and tyrosine-rich foods. These are the building blocks for dopamine production. Tyrosine is an amino acid. Its absorbed in your body and then goes to your brain, where its converted into dopamine. Foods known to increase dopamine include chicken, almonds, apples, avocados, bananas beets, chocolate, green leafy vegetables, green tea, lima beans, oatmeal, oranges, peas, sesame and pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, turmeric, watermelon and wheat germ.
- Engage in activities that make you happy or feel relaxed. This is thought to increase dopamine levels. Some examples include exercise, meditation, yoga, massage, playing with a pet, walking in nature or reading a book.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/23/2022.
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What You Should Try Instead
Dopamine fasting is a silly fad with an unscientific name that greatly undermines its own attempt in helping people take a break from technology or anxious living. Its perfectly healthy and reasonable to take some time away from the never-ending demands of an always-on lifestyle.
We used to call this taking a vacation.
Dopamine fasting as a term is an interesting conversation starter, but Id prefer the term vacation or simply taking a break, agrees Piper. The key is to take a vacation or a break from your devices and technology, as they appear to be one of the primary contributors of many peoples fatigue with the modern world.
We could all serve to un-plug every once in a while, agrees Prof. Hellemans, but to attribute any perceived benefits to reduced dopamine levels is an over-simplification and misrepresentation of the complexity of the nervous system.
And remember dont overdo any self-imposed isolation. Humans have evolved as a highly social species, reminds Hellemans, and as such, loneliness and very little social stimulation can be coded in the nervous system as a threat since loneliness is one of the most potent stressors.
In short, it may be helpful to take a technology break from time to time. But dont repeat the trendy falsehood that youre engaging in dopamine fasting, because its not true and isnt supported by the science.
And dont forget to check out Prof. Kim Hellemans & Jim Davies podcast, Minding the Brain.
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Can Too Much Or Too Little Dopamine Damage My Brain
Yes. Having too much and too little dopamine reserves in the brain can cause severe and complicated mental and physical health problems. Dopamine has substantial changes in mental health and well-being. Possible changes from elevated dopamine levels include:
- Increased Risk-taking behaviors
- Major depression
- Panic or anxiety disorders
Dopamine can also cause physical damage if not appropriately regulated. Possible physical injury may cause severe deterioration to neural pathways and perpetually insufficient dopamine levels and other chemicals in the brain. This can cause severe mental illness. Common mental illnesses associated with dopamine include:
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
Agonists and antagonists can help in the treatment of addiction to drugs and alcohol. Research has found that it is not easy to adjust dopamine levels after extensive use of dopamine-heavy drugs. So how long for dopamine receptors to heal? On average, it may take approximately 14-months to achieve normal levels in the brain with proper treatment and rehabilitation.
Video Game Addiction Symptoms Causes And Effects
Although it is not yet recognized by the American Medical Association as a diagnosable disorder, video game addiction is a very real problem for many people. According to the University of New Mexico, recent studies suggest that 6 to 15 percent of all gamers exhibit signs that could be characterized as addiction. Though this disorder can have significant consequences to those suffering from it, its signs and symptoms can sometimes be very difficult to recognize.
Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Addiction
Can Dopamine Imbalances Cause Problems
For happiness and a healthy sense of drive, dopamine needs to be balanced. Too much or too little of it causes problems. For example, too much dopamine has been associated with agitation, obsession or compulsions, psychosis, and violence. Of the more than 100 murderers who have had brain SPECT imaging done at Amen Clinics, nearly half of them committed their crimes when they were on methamphetamines, which raises the brains dopamine levels.
Too little dopamine can cause depression, low motivation, apathy, fatigue, boredom, Parkinsons disease, impulsivity, sugar cravings, and thrill-seeking and conflict-seeking behavior. Low dopamine is also thought to be the primary issue in ADD/ADHD . Many people with ADD/ADHD play the game of Lets have a problem in an unconscious attempt to stimulate dopamine.
No One Is Actually Fasting From Dopamine
It’s important to note that, despite the name, the original idea behind dopamine fasting is not to literally lower dopamine levels.
“The goal is not to reduce dopamine or elicit functional brain changes,” Sepah, who is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, told Live Science in an email. Instead, dopamine fasting encourages people to reduce the “time spent on problematic behavior,” he said.
Still, research shows there is a connection between dopamine and problematic behavior, such as drug abuse.
When the brain picks up clues that it may soon receive a reward whether that reward be food, illicit drugs or likes on social media a flash of dopamine zaps the reward pathway, according to Slate. Another hit of dopamine comes with the reward itself. Addictive substances and behaviors repeatedly bombard the reward pathway with huge surges of dopamine, and over time, the brain morphs in response.
“When we image brains, we find that in the immediate aftermath of using they actually have less dopamine and fewer dopamine receptors than those who don’t use drugs,” said Dr. Anna Lembke, an associate professor and medical director of addiction medicine at Stanford University.
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First Of All What Does Dopamine Do
First and foremost, dopamine is a neurotransmitter a chemical passed between neurons like hand-written notes between schoolchildren. Neighboring neurons pass these “notes” through intricate networks in the brain. By exchanging neurotransmitters, brain cells work together to process information and direct behavior, according to BrainFacts.org. Many brain networks rely on dopamine to function properly, including a collection of brain structures seated in the center of the organ known as the “mesolimbic reward pathway.” This evolutionarily ancient pathway helps control our response to rewards, like food, sex, and drugs, according to the Incahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.. From this pathway, dopamine ventures out to other brain regions that shape our memory, expectations, emotions and reactions about rewards.
Although often described as a “feel-good” chemical, dopamine doesn’t work by triggering feelings of pleasure and happiness in the brain’s reward center, Michael Treadway, a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist at Emory University, told Live Science.
“This is still hotly debated but I think most dopamine researchers today would agree that dopamine is not about pleasure,” Treadway said. Instead, dopamine may be more about motivation, the willingness to expend effort to reach goals and gain rewards, he said. But that said, the chemical serves many functions in the brain.
Whats Dopamines Role In Addiction To Recreational Drugs
Recreational drugs interfere with the way nerve cells in your brain send and receive messages. Drugs like marijuana and heroin mimic natural neurotransmitters. Other drugs, like amphetamine and cocaine, cause the release of large amounts of natural neurotransmitters or prevent the recycling of these neurotransmitters.
Recreational drugs overstimulate your brains reward center. Over time, with repeated drug exposure, a certain area of your brain becomes less sensitive and you dont get the same feeling of pleasure from anything else but the drug. Also, youll often need to take larger and larger amounts of drugs to produce the same effect. At the same time, another area of your brain becomes more sensitive to the feelings of withdrawal, such as anxiety and irritability, as the drug effects wear off and youll seek drug use for another reason to get relief from this discomfort. So, addiction is a vicious cycle that develops from multiple mechanisms.
Scientists now think that dopamines role isnt to directly cause euphoria, but serves as a reinforcement for remembering and repeating pleasurable experiences. So, when drugs cause surges in dopamine, its teaching your brain to remember the experience. Your brain links your drug use and all of your routines and other cues surrounding the drug event. Its a reason why you might crave drugs when returning to the location where you once used drugs long after youve quit.
Also Check: What Are Signs Of Addiction To Pain Pills
Whats Your Risk Of Developing A Social Media Addiction
Lets face it, social media usage is a habit for most of us. Theres no harm in our habits if they dont harm ourselves or others. In reality, few of us are addicted to social media.
To determine if someone is at risk of developing an addiction to social media, ask these six questions:
- Do they spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
- Do they feel urges to use social media more and more?
- Do they use social media to forget about personal problems?
- Do they often try to reduce the use of social media without success?
- Do they become restless or troubled if unable to use social media?
- Do they use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on their job or studies?
A yes to more than three of these questions may indicate a social media addiction.
Things You Can Do To Reset Your Brains Dopamine Levels
It is crucial to understand that resetting your brains dopamine levels is something that takes time. There is nothing that you can do to reset your dopamine levels overnight. Instead, you must actively work to increase your dopamine levels in healthy, sober ways.
As you work towards securing and sustaining sobriety, consider relying on the following tips to guide you to healing and resetting your brains dopamine levels naturally:
- Create exciting daily routines. Incorporate fun activities into your daily routine, even if they are mindless activities. These things will help motivate you in your recovery, especially during those random days of numbness or loneliness.
- Focus on perfecting your sleep schedule. Sleep is essential for the brain and body as it allows time for everything to repair and reset. Your sleep becomes even more critical in recovery. Work to get enough sleep each night and create a reliable sleep schedule.
- Improve your diet. Certain foods may increase your dopamine levels, while others reduce them. Incorporate foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein into your daily diet.
- Exercise. Your brain naturally releases dopamine when you exercise.
- Practice mindfulness. Meditation and other mindfulness practices help you focus on the here and now, encouraging you to identify what you are grateful for.
- Listen to music. Create a playlist of your favorite songs and have it ready to play when you feel discontent.
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Mistakes To Avoid When Your Child Is Addicted To Video Games
- Pointless battle?
- Avoiding common mistakes
Emily awoke at 2 a.m. after hearing a noise downstairs. Nervously pulling back the blanket, she slipped quietly out of her room toward the mysterious sound. Anxiety turned into anger as she approached the faint but distinct music of her sons favourite video game the same game they had been ordered to stop playing hours earlier in order to go to bed.
At that moment Emily couldnt decide whether to scream or cry whether she was losing her mind or coming to her senses. Emily unplugged the video-game system, gathered up cords and devices, walked onto her second-storey deck and pitched hundreds of dollars worth of equipment over the railing. With a great sense of relief, she listened for the sweet sound of crashing electronics below. âThere!â she assured herself. âThat should take care of the problem.â
Emilys reaction may seem extreme, but those who live with a child addicted to video games understand. Years later, Emily said her decision to jettison video games from her home had lasting significance protecting her sons from an addiction that is stealing countless children away from real life.
But Heres What You Dont Want To Do
Dont internalize the problem by constantly telling yourself, Im a video game addict and beating yourself up about the ways youve behaved in the past.
Doing this just makes you feel more down .
And taking on addict as a self identity label gives you an out every time the going gets tough
Most addictions in this vein really just come down to a mixture of impulsiveness and low frustration tolerance .
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Also Check: Prayers For Healing From Addiction
Am I Addicted To My Phone
Genuine addiction to anything is obviously something to be avoided. Here check a few questions that can help you to understand whether excessive screen time is a problem issue for you or your child:
- Do you get nervous when cant find your phone immediately? Does the discomfort continue until you find the phone?
- Are you constantly checking your mail, social media profile or messenger chat even when youre not expecting a specific message or call? Do you do this even when someone in the same room is vying for your attention?
- Do you spend more time chatting on social media than face to face?
- Do you closely follow the latest news in mobile technology to ensure you have the latest devices, functionalities and fad apps?
- Do you find it uncomfortable to turn your phone off, even when the situation calls for it?
- Do you text or read your Facebook feed while driving?
- Do you ever bump into other people or objects because your nose is in your screen while you walk?
- Are you the app king among your friends? By which I mean that you regularly download a lot of new stuff but dont use them for long before searching for the next thing?
- Do you take the phone everywhere with you ?
- Is your most commonly used word Pardon? or something equivalent, because your attention is on your phone?
Aspenridge Recovery: Colorado Addiction Programs
AspenRidge Recovery can help with long-term recovery and strategies to restore healthy brain function. First, we can assist by addressing problematic behaviors as they relate to substance abuse and underlying co-occurring mental health disorders.
AspenRidge is premier substance abuse and mental health treatment center. AspenRidge views mental health and addiction on a spectrum. They understand that one-size-does-not-fit-all and will cater treatments to specific mental health and addiction needs.
AspenRidge Recovery offers various programs that are each tailored to meet individual needs. Our programs include:
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