Addiction is a global public health problem that affects millions of people around the world. At present, it is known that addiction is a disease of the brain that affects multiple neurotransmission systems, including dopamine. In this article, the relationship between dopamine and addiction will be discussed, as well as exploring how to naturally regulate dopamine levels in the brain.
Dopamine and addiction
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released in the brain in response to pleasurable experiences. When the brain experiences something pleasurable, such as eating a mouthful of delicious food or receiving a reward, dopamine is released in the brain. This release of dopamine acts as positive reinforcement and can lead to repetition of the behavior. In other words, the brain learns that the action that led to the release of dopamine is a good thing and strives to repeat it.
In addiction, dopamine release becomes dysfunctional. Addicts often actively seek out situations that make them feel good, even if they are harmful to themselves or others. This is because the release of dopamine in an addict’s brain has become so dysfunctional that they require more and more stimuli to feel the same level of reward.
Another important neurotransmitter in addiction is glutamate , which acts on the brain’s reward system and is involved in the formation and consolidation of stimulus-reward associations. The release of glutamate in the brain has also been linked to addiction.
10 Ways to Regulate Dopamine Naturally
The natural regulation of dopamine in the brain may help prevent addiction and may also be an important factor in addiction recovery. Here are 10 ways to regulate dopamine in our brain naturally, backed by science:
- Physical exercise : Physical activity appears to have beneficial effects on dopamine regulation and the brain reward system, which may help prevent addiction and improve mental and physical well-being.When you exercise, there is increased activity in the brain’s reward systems, leading to the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens and other areas of the brain. Dopamine release has been linked to feelings of well-being and the pleasure associated with exercise. Additionally, physical exercise increases the expression of dopamine receptors in the brain, which can increase the brain’s sensitivity to dopamine. This means that the brain can receive more dopamine with less stimulation, which can help prevent desensitization of brain reward circuitry, a phenomenon that can occur with addiction.Physical exercise has also been shown to increase levels of tyrosine hydroxylase, an enzyme involved in the production of dopamine. This means that physical exercise can increase the brain’s ability to produce dopamine.
- Meditation : A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that meditation can increase dopamine activity in the brain.
- Diet: A diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals can help regulate dopamine levels in the brain. On the other hand, a diet high in refined fats and sugars can negatively affect dopamine levels and contribute to addiction.
- Tyrosine-Rich Foods : Tyrosine is an amino acid that is used to produce dopamine in the brain. Foods rich in tyrosine include chicken, turkey, eggs, dairy products, soybeans, tofu, sesame seeds, and almonds.
- Foods rich in folic acid : Folic acid is necessary for the production of dopamine in the brain. Foods rich in folic acid include spinach, broccoli, lentils, and asparagus.
- Music: In the studio ” Dopaminergic award circuits : from BASIC circuits to clinical research ” by Berridge and Kringelbach (2015), published in Neuroscience , reviews the evidence indicating that listening to music activates brain reward circuits and releases dopamine. The authors suggest that music may have therapeutic effects for the regulation of the reward system and addiction prevention.
- Massage : A study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that a 45-minute massage can increase dopamine levels in the brain.
- Green Tea : Green tea contains an amino acid called L- theanine that can increase dopamine production in the brain.
- Exposure to sunlight: A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that exposure to sunlight can increase dopamine production in the brain.
- Sleep : In the scientific study ” Acute Sleep loss increases striatal dopamine Release in Healthy Adults ” by Volkow et al. (2012), published in the Journal of Neuroscience supports that sleeping regulates dopamine. This study found that sleep deprivation in healthy adults increases dopamine release in the striatum, a brain region important in regulating the reward system. The authors concluded that adequate sleep is important for maintaining balance in the brain’s reward system and preventing vulnerability to addiction.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: A study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that cognitive behavioral therapy can help regulate dopamine levels in the brain in people with substance use disorders.
- Reduce the consumption of alcohol, substances or addictive behaviors . In order for dopamine to be released naturally and avoid falling into addictions, we have to learn to train it so that its release does not occur due to an addiction, be it to alcohol, tobacco, substances or behavioral addictions such as bets or social networks, among others.
One way to naturally regulate dopamine is through regular physical exercise. Physical exercise releases endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which can help regulate dopamine levels.
Another way to naturally regulate your dopamine levels is through a healthy diet. A diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals can help regulate dopamine levels in the brain. On the other hand, a diet high in refined fats and sugars can negatively affect dopamine levels and contribute to addiction.
Adequate sleep can also help regulate dopamine levels in the brain. Lack of sleep can negatively affect the production and release of dopamine in the brain, which can increase the risk of addiction.
Brain areas affected in addiction
Although substance addictions and behavioral addictions have significant differences, both types of addiction have similar effects on the brain. Substance addiction and behavioral addiction can affect areas of the brain such as the nucleus accumbens , the prefrontal cortex , and the amygdala .
- The nucleus accumbens is a region of the brain that is found in the reward system. This area is activated when something pleasant is experienced and dopamine is released. In addictions, the nucleus accumbens is affected and may require more and more stimuli to feel the same reward.
- The prefrontal cortex is a region of the brain that is involved in behavior control and decision making. In addictions, the prefrontal cortex can be affected, which can lead to a loss of control over addictive behavior.
- The amygdala is a region of the brain that is involved in emotional memory and stress response. In addictions, the amygdala can be affected, which can increase the emotional response to addiction-related stimuli.
It is important to note that although substance addictions and behavioral addictions affect different areas of the brain, both types of addiction can have serious consequences for physical and mental health.
Compared to addiction to stimulant substances such as cocaine, excessive social media use may seem less harmful in terms of long-term physiological and psychological consequences. However, several studies have found similarities in the way the brain responds to both types of addictions.
A study published in the journal ” Frontiers in Psychology ” (Lin, Weng , et al ., 2018) found that both social media addiction and cocaine addiction are associated with changes in functional connectivity in the brain. Specifically, both types of addictions were associated with increased functional connectivity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region known to be involved in emotional response and cognitive control.
Excessive consumption of social media can affect the balance of dopamine in the brain in a number of ways. First, social media can be highly addictive due to the dopamine release that occurs when we receive likes , comments, or messages on our posts. This can create a reward cycle that makes us want to keep checking our social media for more dopamine.
Additionally, excessive use of social media can negatively affect sleep quality and increase stress, which in turn can increase dopamine production. This can lead to a greater need to seek external rewards to relieve stress and increase satisfaction.
On the other hand, excessive use of social networks can also decrease activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling impulses and regulating emotion. This can negatively affect the brain’s ability to regulate dopamine production and increase the need to seek external rewards to feel good.
Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter in the brain’s reward system, but it is also implicated in addiction. Natural regulation of dopamine levels in the brain through regular physical exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep can help prevent addiction and may also be an important factor in addiction recovery.
Substance addiction and behavioral addiction can affect different areas of the brain, including the nucleus accumbens, the prefrontal cortex, and the amygdala. Although they can have significant differences, both types of addiction can have serious consequences for physical and mental health.
It is important to approach addiction as a disease of the brain and seek evidence-based and effective treatments to help people recover from addiction. Prevention and natural regulation of dopamine levels in the brain can be an important step in preventing addiction and promoting a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
It is important to remember that addiction is a complex disease and that recovery takes time, effort, and ongoing support. People struggling with addiction may benefit from a combination of drug treatments and behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and group therapy.
In conclusion, dopamine is an important neurotransmitter in the reward system of the brain and is implicated in addiction. However, addiction is a complex disease that involves multiple areas of the brain and requires a comprehensive approach to its prevention and treatment. The natural regulation of dopamine levels in the brain through a healthy lifestyle can be an important step in addiction prevention. Additionally, it is important to seek professional help and support in addiction recovery.
Gomez-Pinilla, F., et al. (2011). differential effects of acute and chronic exercise on plasticity-related genes in the rat hippocampus revealed by microarray . european journal of Neuroscience , 33(3), 547-555. doi : 10.1111/j.1460-9568.201
Lin, F., Weng , X., Qi , X., Zhang, Y., Liang , J., & Ono , Y. (2018). white matter integrity in adolescents with internet addiction disorder : A tract-based spatial statistics study . Frontiers in Psychiatry , 9, 103.
Lin, TW, Chen, SJ, Huang, TY, & Chang, CY (2012). Chu S.-J. effects of exercise training on dopamine receptors in brain of rats . Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise , 44(7), 1370-1377. doi : 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31824cc363
Koob , GF, & Volkow , ND (2016). neurobiology of addiction : a neurocircuitry analysis . The Lancet Psychiatry , 3(8), 760-773.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). understanding drug use and addiction . retrieved desde https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction
Roessler , J., et al. (2011). exercise increases stimulating but not Purely Dopaminergic Agonists effects on rat Brain award Function . journal of Addiction Medicine, 5(1), 39-46. doi : 10.1097/adm.0b013e3181d53a21
Tang, Y., et al. (2015). Short- term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation . proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 112(28), 8865-8870. doi : 10.1073/pnas.1505196112
Volkow , ND, Tomasi, D., Wang, GJ, Telang , F., Fowler , JS, Logan, J., … & Benveniste, H. (2012). Acute sleep deprivation increases dopamine in the human brain . journal of Neuroscience , 32(49), 17653-17659.