Published: 07/18/2018 - Updated: 01/27/2019
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
Dopamine is a hormone and a neurotransmitter produced in the body’s of a wide variety of both vertebrate and invertebrate animals. According to its chemical structure, it serves as neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.
This neurotransmitter is produced in several parts of the nervous system and is also secreted by the hypothalamus. Its primary purpose is to inhibit the secretion of Prolactin in the frontal lobes of the pituitary gland. This substance is created in the body by the amino acid Tyrosine, just like other neurotransmitters like Norepinephrine or Serotonin. Several studies have shown that the more the Dopaminergic system is activated, the greater the euphoric sensations experienced. However, Dopamine is not only a substance that transmits pleasure signals, it is also the most important molecule involved in addiction.
Addictions and Dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is related to the development of addictions as well as disorders such as attention deficit, hyperactivity, schizophrenia, or addictions to stimulating substances. These are all characterized by an alteration in the Dopaminergic brain circuits, even though we still don’t know if the alteration is the cause or the effect of these personality disorders (*).
The neurons in addicts experiencing an abnormal and elevated amount of dopamine, respond defensively, reducing the number to Dopaminergic receptors. This explains why drug addicts begin taking drugs to feel better and to avoid feeling pain or discomfort, and later end up unable to stop taking them. Each time they need a higher does of the substance to achieve the same effect.
Neuroscientists believe today that the predisposition for addiction to certain substances, or to any other opiate, could be in largely hereditary. They have even gone so far as to identify the genes that code dopamine activity in the brain.
Emotional culture and addictions
From my personal standpoint, allow me to intervene and explain that in regards to what was being discussed in the paragraph marked with the asterisk (*). I believe that altered Dopaminergic brain circuits are an effect of (and not the cause of), individual behavioral disorders, caused by a very minimal or non-existent emotional culture.
In today’s cultures, individuals are frequently taught to know lots of things; news, all kinds of information, but they are hardly ever taught how to be happy or a sense of responsibility to said happiness. Therefore, human beings become dependent on various circumstances to make them happy. In severe cases, where poverty existing on an economic and love level (family, friends, etc.), and even a spiritual poverty combine, the search for happiness grows even more intense. By not knowing how to handle depressive or painful states of mind, the feeling of “emptiness” and unhappiness creates a severe sense of lacking in human beings.
Love, as a form of pleasure and life-promoter, is felt as a sense of “absence”. The individual can handle this in several ways to achieve their emotional needs, either with a demanding or manipulative demeanor. When this need is more severe and not understood, the individual seems to be unable to find the way to satisfy themselves in the outside world. That individual’s life is then focused on pain and a constant lacking. In order to balance this need between life and pleasure which all of nature naturally gravitates to, the brain begins to act defensively in that state of lacking. It begins to search for was to hide the feeling of “no life”, searching for alternatives that can become as severe as addictions (of all types). In truly severe cases, substance addictions (Continued in part 2)
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 01/27/2019
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