Drug Abuse and Dopamine

Your brain is an extraordinary thing. It tells you when to breathe when you’re hungry, and every basic function to live. It even has a reward center that gets triggered when you eat good food, have sex, create art, and a range of other similar activities.

When this reward center of your brain is triggered, it releases dopamine, which tells your brain to take notes on what caused this sensation: food, a substance, a certain behavior? What were the surroundings like when the dopamine was released? Was it a certain time of day? Were you with someone?

Drug Abuse and Dopamine

What Does Dopamine Do for You?

When dopamine is released and you’re exposed to those environmental cues, you’ll begin to feel the same drive to seek out that same pleasure. This drive can be incredibly powerful, creating an urge that’s hard to control.

When drugs are involved, they flood the brain with dopamine. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), when drugs are abused, they can stimulate 2-10 times more dopamine to be released than things like food or sex may. This flood of dopamine causes a burst of euphoria, or the “high,” that occurs when illicit drugs are abused. It can be highly pleasurable, and individuals are often keen to repeat the feeling with recurring drug use. It is the dopamine signal that causes us to repeat the activity, such as drug use to the point of the formation of habits, or in other words an addiction.

Why are Drugs Addictive?

Using drugs on a regular basis actually causes the brain to produce, absorb, or transmit less dopamine, resulting in a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is why a person who misuses drugs eventually feels flat, without motivation, lifeless, and/or depressed, and is unable to enjoy things that were previously pleasurable. Now, the person needs to keep taking drugs to experience even a normal level of reward—which only makes the problem worse, like a vicious cycle. Also, the person will often grow a tolerance to their drug of choice and need to take larger amounts of that substance to produce the familiar high.

There comes a point when you are not feeling the “high” you used to feel and it seems like no matter how much you use, you stop feeling  “good”. Eventually, you want to stop but when you do stop using drugs, this causes your dopamine levels to drop, creating uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and powerful cravings. This is when drug dependence sets in, and you then only keep taking drugs to avoid these negative emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms.

This is when addiction is formed. Once you’re addicted, your dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters affected by drug abuse may no longer be produced, transmitted, and absorbed the way they were before the introduction of the drugs. Neurons may be damaged, and the regular functioning of these chemical messengers is delayed. It may then be difficult to feel pleasure from normal and everyday activities. Withdrawal symptoms such as 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.

Allure Detox Treats Addiction

After some time abstaining from drugs the brain can return to normal function. At Allure Detox, you will leave our care with more than good health at their disposal. Our focus is on minimizing your withdrawal symptoms to a comfortable level while beginning the comprehensive treatment process that will keep you sober.

We look forward to working with you and your family to get your lives back on track. Contact us around the clock for a confidential assessment and let’s see if Allure Detox is the right treatment center for yourself or a loved one.