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On Dopamine and the Brain

Discussion in '~ Articles ~ Info ~ Links ~ Data ~' started by spring, Feb 28, 2005.

  1. spring

    spring Administrator

    Retrieved from the archives
    Originally posted by Rachel

    An excerpt from the below-linked article:

    Dopamine, mentioned above, is one of the primary neurotransmitters involved in addiction. All the major drugs of abuse--alcohol, nicotine, opiates and cocaine--increase dopamine levels. That's a "good news-bad news" scenario. The "good" news, at least temporarily, is that the excess dopamine creates powerful feelings of pleasure. The bad news is that the excess levels take a long-term toll on brain chemistry and promote addiction.

    To understand this, remember the biological concept of homeostasis, a word that literally means "same state." The brain seeks to maintain a constant level of cell activity. That stable level is critical to regulating our behavior. When supplies of dopamine remain constant, we can experience the ordinary pleasures of life--such as eating and having sex--without the compulsion to seek those pleasures in self-destructive ways.

    When consistently subjected to artificially high levels of dopamine from use of a drug, however, the brain "downshifts" its internal supply of this neurotransmitter. The brain comes to depend on the presence of a drug in order to maintain homeostasis and function normally.

    And that's the problem. If the extra dopamine supplied by drugs is missing, the alcoholic or drug addict feels much less pleasure. In fact, these people can experience symptoms such as depression, fatigue and withdrawal. To the addict, it seems that the only relief from these symptoms is to use more and more drugs. It all adds up to craving--addicts' constant drive to obtain their chemicals of choice.

    Drugs hijack the brain's reward circuit
    In addiction, craving becomes so powerful that it rules the addict's life. This power results in part from changes to a specific path of neurons throughout the brain--the "pleasure system" or "reward circuit." The reward circuit has been studied extensively in rodents. This is significant, since biochemical processes in these animals are strikingly similar to those of human beings.

    In a classic experimental design, researchers attach electrodes to points in the brains of living rodents--locations that correspond to the reward circuit. When rodents press a special lever in their cages, a small electrical current travels via the electrodes directly to the animals' reward circuit. Typically, some of the rodents press the lever compulsively--thousands of times, until they finally collapse in exhaustion.

    These findings give a clue to the power of the reward circuit in human beings, which extends from the mid-brain to another section called the nucleus accumbens. This is where drugs of abuse create their effect by masquerading as natural chemicals.

    Steven Hyman, MD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, described (below) the action of drugs on this part of the brain in an interview with Bill Moyers (aired on public television as part of Moyer's series on addiction titled "Moyer's on Addiction: Close to Home")


    "The nucleus accumbens seems to have a particular role in telling us what might be pleasing, what might be good for us. . . . Cocaine and amphetamine put more dopamine in key synapses over a longer period of time in this brain reward pathway than normal. And because they are so rewarding, because they tap right into a circuit that we have in our brains, whose job it is to say something like, "Yes, that was good. Let's do it again and let's remember exactly how we did it," people will take these drugs again and again and again".

    For the person who uses chemicals to repeatedly stimulate the reward circuit, the prospect of abstaining from those chemicals can seem as hopeless and absurd as the idea of abstaining from food. An overpowering drive to drink or use other drugs compromises the user's will, changing what was once a voluntary behavior into an involuntary one.

    http://www.hazelden.org/servlet/hazelden/go/INFO_BRAINDISEASE
     
  2. adracull

    adracull Active Member

    Thank you for that very informative information.
    It greatly helped me in understandinh more about dopamine and what happens when one starts using. I found the section on the Reward Circuit and Nucleus Accumbens helpful aswell. I love reading about the scientific reasons why one becomes addicted, and why we feel they way we feel when starting the road to recovery. What a great article to add to the forum in this site!!!

    Thank You,
    andrew

    andrew
     
  3. Tony513

    Tony513 Member

    Do opiates have similar effects on the brain relating to dopamine.
    Tony
     
  4. Asif

    Asif Member

    Hey guys, I'm staring a tyrosine, zinc, megadose Vitamin C/ B12 regimen tomorrow. I will update you on the effects/side effects when i am cognizant of them. I am using this on the daily recommended dose and for treating my depression. I started feeling depressed immediately after quitting speedballing and the one thing I used to look forward to was my once-a-month "accidental" relapse---which was really just a desperate joy bang(s). I quit doing that approx. two months ago and after having got arrested again and almost truly f***** I have been totally clean. I got this stuff at the health food store for about 40$ which is a small fraction of my daily expenditure on dopes used to be. Like I said, I will update, and I'll let y'all now how it goes. Meow You, A
     
  5. Asif

    Asif Member

    Ok guys, I spent a lot of today wondering how to say this without sounding like a true believer or some kind of kook. So, the first day's activity on the vitamins (on an empty stomach with some tea) really worked even though I didn't really believe it would. I would call it a success based on these qualifiers: I definitely noticed some exotic "otherness" but it wasn't necessarily psychoactive. Supposedly, I was weird before drugs >>>sigh<<<. Tyrosine is in the same family as adrenaline so it reinforced for me the grin-and-bear-it mentality I have these days anyways. As to the level of bleedthrough, I found it manageable/ not changing my mood or personality. The L-tyrosine and the 12 really kept me from being overly morbid and provided a little burst of adrenaline without any dopey side effects or unreality. For me, kicking was always easier than staying clean. And one of the things I researched and asked about was dependence on the vitamin supplement to maintain positivity. Or, more importantly to avoid crashes and more relentless depression. I am sad, and definitely a sad case---but, I'm trying really hard to keep doing the right things. Eventually I don't want to need this stuff so the good news is that it doesn't effect yr body by shutting down natural systems but by passively supporting them and encouraging the synthesis of proteins.
    Yeah, also----I worked all day from like 8 to 10 the whole time even seeing customers, welding, doing inventories and driving all over the city getting a ton of stuff done without having to take a gazillion breaks and whining and self-doubting. I almost feel guilty it's better than I'd hoped. This is perhaps the greatest aspect of it. The Change was instant, noticeable, preferable, and positive/proactive whatever. IT HAPPENED RIGHT AWAY. Once again, there were no real psychoactive effects, no cognitive distortion, etc. I seemed more like the 'old me' or the caricature I have of myself from the age of twelve or so; a good thing, meow. Made getting served with papers during dinner seem more like a challenge than the cruci-fiction it really is. Lastly, I need to say that the guy that works with me is probably one in a million because he somehow manages to be way too nice to me or something so I have some good things going for me anyways AND I can recognize them---which has more to do with staying and wanting to be clean than any miracle drug therapy BS. We cleaned up my junkie pigsty after work today where we are also doing some fabricating for our manufactury and this also helps improve the general sense of well-being and adjustment. We've been friends for fifteen years now, but he just happened to show up a few weeks ago and start this business that's made eveything great since jail ended. Sorry I wrote a novel here but this forum is one of my only lights since I sucked all the air outta the room. BTW, L-tyrosene, Phenalalonine, L-dopa (velet beanselvet beans)) and endorphin/dopamine sources are contra-indicated for persons taking MAOI's. So, do your research and talk to a doctor before committing to any kind of chemical/vitamin therapy. I was/am just desperate. Megadosing Vitamin C can have at least a few serious side effects such as IBS and possibly kidney stones. For this I am using crystalized C with a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the acidity and zinc to *supposedly* prevent the stones. The following is a possible place to start if yr interested. I found it to be useful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrosine

    I'll report back 2morrow on day2 of this as I intend to continue this along with a balanced diet and excercise. wish me luck, please.
    bzzzzzzzt, A
     
  6. monstergirl

    monstergirl New Member

    ASIF just thought I'd mention that I spent the last 24 hrs kicking w/ massive vit C powder and got thru to 9 this morning so I could take a bup- and now I feel amazing- just took one. I have all the L tyrosine and phenalynalyne (sp) and 5Htp and that, but didn't have the stomach to take it before now- that C sure was hell in the bathroom dept.- but amazingly kept my bones and everything ok. I'm coming off of about 2 years of smoking H. (this time- I swore off the needle, but who am I kidding? It got me just as good. I just looked better this time. What are you kicking? Hope you're still doing ok. Never posted on a drug thing before, but reading everyone's posts gave me that extra umph- this is the first time I've gone 32 hrs straight in years!
    -monster
     
  7. Asif

    Asif Member

    Hi Monstergirl,
    to be honest I've relapsed a few times after starting the Tyrosene/C thing. i was doing it for the depression and now I've fallen again. some of the guys went out drinking after work ---which led to the coke thing. With my inhibitions gone I walked a few blocks from the bar to the shooting gallery and the rest has been more of the same old thing, unfortunately. I really feel like scum because nobody knows and I find myself back in trouble and getting to the point where i'm in over my head. I wanted deperately to believe that something---anything would fix me long enough to have regained momentum. I see why I'm all alone it's so transparent. i'm going to look for a meeting. thanks to this forum at least there's one place i don't find myself constantly lying. i don't want to lose it all again!!!!! XOXO, A
     
  8. flamaureen

    flamaureen New Member

    Hi , don't know who started this thread but its very interesting.

    Without talking too much about myself this is my first post ! i have just withdrawn from methadone for 20r a heroin addict, but i had never known about the dopamine. I had to go to jail. I violated my probation..POT off all things, which i don't think is any big deal. They didn't test for opiates or benzos, but the withdrawl from 20mg of methadone was awful & it lasts soooooooo long.

    So my quetion for you is how long till the brain starts producing dopamine again? Was feeling better after 10 days when i got home & didnt take any meth for like 3 days, but i couldnt stand the aching anymore. I know i am a wimp. I took 10mg hey its better than 20. I am sick of being a slave to this drug.Thanx i am going to do a post for everyboddy , THANX SO MUCH i think its great there are sites like this i can dump on.
     
  9. sheffwed

    sheffwed Well-Known Member

    To put an overly simplistic view on dopamine and endorphins, they are both chemical messengers in the brain. Most of the dopamine in the brain is found in the 'reward circuitry' which includes the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and associated clusters of cells. One of these clusters is referred to as the nucleus accumbens. Dopamine release into this cluster is understood to result in 'pleasurable' feelings and reinforcement. This process occurs in response to a variety of cues, such as a nice taste, during sex, and when taking drugs. There's a lot of cross talk with other brain regions, such as those controlling emotions and memories.

    Endorphins are the chemical messengers which mainly bind to the mu-opioid receptor. These receptors can be found on inhibitory GABA neurons providing input to the VTA. Essentially, dopamine release is reduced by GABA neurons and GABA release is reduced by opioids, including endorphins. So when morphine or endorphins bind, reducing GABA release, this takes the break off dopamine release, and so it is increased. Did that make sense? Ok, so what this means is that, if someone takes naltrexone, activity in this reward system will reduce, but not be blocked completely (some dopamine release can still occur).
     
  10. Nomadic 1

    Nomadic 1 Well-Known Member

    I remember doing all of these at the same time without getting out of bed.[}:)] Then it was just taking drugs only. I lost interest in the other two..... Now praise the lord, they're back!!!

    In all seriousness, very good explanation. I had to read over some of it a few times. I've had college chem, micro, A&P, and this stuff is still confusing....maybe it's all those drugs I used to take causing this?

    Thanks!!!


    nomadic

    "Many a false step is taken by standing still." Arnold Glasow
     
  11. sheffwed

    sheffwed Well-Known Member

    No worries. It's a very complex issue that is still not fully understood (by scientists).
    I've been reading on it for several years now, so I'm quite happy to share the information I've come across.
     
  12. tubalkain

    tubalkain Well-Known Member

    Dee came up with the up/down regulation to explain the mechanics of addiction and it does explain a lot. Understand up/down regulation and the role of dopamine and you understand addiction, why opiates stop working and why most people feel bad after kicking.

    According to modern neuropsychiatry:
    Repeated use of cocaine, heroin, ethyl alcohol and other euphoriant drugs induces a compensatory up-regulation of the dynorphin/kappa-opioid receptor system causing anxiety, anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure) and dysphoria (a state of feeling unwell/unhappy).
    Whereas mu receptor agonist opioids induce euphoria (intense excitement/happiness) by enhancing dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens.
    Activation of kappa opioid receptors inhibits dopamine release from the mesolimbic terminals. This deficiency is unpleasant because the mesolimbic dopamine system regulates hedonic tone and the capacity to experience (and anticipate) happiness. Dopamine also modulates the threshold of pain perception.

    When taken recreationally, opioids inspire a dreamily contented disengagement from the problems of the world. Their use diminishes our drive to constructive activity as consumers in today's competitive global marketplace.
    But the trap is that excess consumption of narcotics inhibits the release of the natural opioids normally induced by social interaction with friends and family...and by diminishing the craving for human companionship, the addict substitutes one form of opioid addiction for another. Thus junkies are usually "selfish"(probably familiar to any junkie).
    This also explains the antisocial-ness unless your ASPD (anti-social personality disorder) was the original reason why you liked opiates so much. This part does get better, though.

    Even if opioid drugs were legal and given away in cereal packets, such drugs wouldn't make a good choice of a mood-booster - or at least not in their present, crudely non-specific guise. Kappa receptor agonists, for instance, impair dopamine function. They have dysphoric and psychotomimetic effects.
    In other words, until they come up with an opiate that doesn't agonize kappa dope is not the solution.

    Here are the boring but crucial preliminaries. Optimal nutrition and aerobic exercise will increase the success of the following potential life-enhancers touted here.

    A rich supply of precursor chemicals (e.g. l-tryptophan, the rate-limiting step in the production of serotonin) can also reduce their effective drug dosages.

    By choosing to eat an idealized "stone-age" diet rich in organic nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables, and drastically reducing one's consumption of saturated fat (red meat, fried foods), sugar (sweets etc) and hydrogenated oils (found in margarine and refined vegetable oils), then one's baseline of well-being - or at least relative ill-being - can be sustainably lifted.
    There is mounting evidence too that an omega-3 fatty acid-rich diet or supplementation is protective against depression and other psychiatric disorders. Folic acid augmentation is advisable as well.
    Regular and moderately vigorous physical exertion releases endogenous opioids, enhances serotonin function, stimulates nerve growth factors, promotes cell proliferation in the hippocampus, and leads to a livelier, better-oxygenated brain.


    There is hope after all, you got to eat right and work out. A lot. Like run marathons. Or feel like sh*t forever. It's the only way to get some extra endorphines and it's good for you anyway. You may also remember some people find bananas strangely comforting, this could be tryptophans working. Turkey has those too, happy Thanksgiving. Food supplements are obviously a good idea and low dose naltrexone also reportedly pumps up your dopamine.

    To wrap it up, you do get a few good years on heroin but it always always ALWAYS turns around on you.
     
  13. candycvr

    candycvr New Member

    I've been detoxed from opiates for four months now and am debilitated with depression. How long before I start to feel anywhere near normal??? Can anyone out there tell me...please?
     
  14. sheffwed

    sheffwed Well-Known Member

    Hi candycvr,

    If you haven't already, try introducing a balanced healthy diet (plenty of grains, fruit and veg, less fats and sugar) and a regime of regular exercise into your lifestyle. Others report improved recovery after implementing these life-style changes.

    Multivitamin supplementation may also help stablise mood.

    Best wishes,
    Sheff
     
  15. sandersw

    sandersw Well-Known Member

    This is a great thread that you did months ago. I just read it and loved it. Every addict on this forum should read it.

    Addiction hijacks the limbic system. It becomes a survival instinct just like reproduction and gathering food. Good stuff. The way that I understand it is:
    Dopamine is released by the ventral tagmental area of the brain(VTA). Dopamine then attaches to the receptors at the nucleus accumbens (NA). The NA then releases enkephalines (endorphines) back to the VTA as a thank you. The memory is now created which we can now duplicate. In addition the NA releases serotonin to the prefrontal cortex which tells us everything is OK.

    Retrieved from the archives
    Originally posted by Rachel

    An excerpt from the below-linked article:

    Dopamine, mentioned above, is one of the primary neurotransmitters involved in addiction. All the major drugs of abuse--alcohol, nicotine, opiates and cocaine--increase dopamine levels. That's a "good news-bad news" scenario. The "good" news, at least temporarily, is that the excess dopamine creates powerful feelings of pleasure. The bad news is that the excess levels take a long-term toll on brain chemistry and promote addiction.

    To understand this, remember the biological concept of homeostasis, a word that literally means "same state." The brain seeks to maintain a constant level of cell activity. That stable level is critical to regulating our behavior. When supplies of dopamine remain constant, we can experience the ordinary pleasures of life--such as eating and having sex--without the compulsion to seek those pleasures in self-destructive ways.

    When consistently subjected to artificially high levels of dopamine from use of a drug, however, the brain "downshifts" its internal supply of this neurotransmitter. The brain comes to depend on the presence of a drug in order to maintain homeostasis and function normally.

    And that's the problem. If the extra dopamine supplied by drugs is missing, the alcoholic or drug addict feels much less pleasure. In fact, these people can experience symptoms such as depression, fatigue and withdrawal. To the addict, it seems that the only relief from these symptoms is to use more and more drugs. It all adds up to craving--addicts' constant drive to obtain their chemicals of choice.

    Drugs hijack the brain's reward circuit
    In addiction, craving becomes so powerful that it rules the addict's life. This power results in part from changes to a specific path of neurons throughout the brain--the "pleasure system" or "reward circuit." The reward circuit has been studied extensively in rodents. This is significant, since biochemical processes in these animals are strikingly similar to those of human beings.

    In a classic experimental design, researchers attach electrodes to points in the brains of living rodents--locations that correspond to the reward circuit. When rodents press a special lever in their cages, a small electrical current travels via the electrodes directly to the animals' reward circuit. Typically, some of the rodents press the lever compulsively--thousands of times, until they finally collapse in exhaustion.

    These findings give a clue to the power of the reward circuit in human beings, which extends from the mid-brain to another section called the nucleus accumbens. This is where drugs of abuse create their effect by masquerading as natural chemicals.

    Steven Hyman, MD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, described (below) the action of drugs on this part of the brain in an interview with Bill Moyers (aired on public television as part of Moyer's series on addiction titled "Moyer's on Addiction: Close to Home"):


    "The nucleus accumbens seems to have a particular role in telling us what might be pleasing, what might be good for us. . . . Cocaine and amphetamine put more dopamine in key synapses over a longer period of time in this brain reward pathway than normal. And because they are so rewarding, because they tap right into a circuit that we have in our brains, whose job it is to say something like, "Yes, that was good. Let's do it again and let's remember exactly how we did it," people will take these drugs again and again and again".

    For the person who uses chemicals to repeatedly stimulate the reward circuit, the prospect of abstaining from those chemicals can seem as hopeless and absurd as the idea of abstaining from food. An overpowering drive to drink or use other drugs compromises the user's will, changing what was once a voluntary behavior into an involuntary one.

    http://www.hazelden.org/servlet/hazelden/go/INFO_BRAINDISEASE
     

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