The role of Dopamine in addiction - MC Counselling

The role of Dopamine in addiction

Dopamine is the pleasure centre of the brain. We produce dopamine by doing all the “good” things in life like exercising, spending time in the sun, sleeping, listening to tunes, meditating and consuming probiotics, like coconut yoghurt (very yummy 😋). However dopamine can also support self-destructive coping mechanisms. I’ll discuss that further shortly.

Dopamine is the “motivation molecule” neurotransmitter responsible for motivation. When we experience a positive sensation, dopamine is released into the “reward centre” of our brain. At this time, our brain takes note of the triggers for this sensation including substance, behaviour, food and any cues about the location of the sensation to assist in finding it again. For example;

  • Was the sensation during the day or at night?
  • Who were you with?
  • What other things were happening when this positive sensation was experienced?

The role of dopamine in addiction encourages you to repeat those experiences in the hope the positive sensation returns. In assisting this, you develop rituals around the “positive sensation” experience. This includes the “addictive” property, drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, porn.

Dopamine doesn’t addict you. It creates the sensations or triggers to your overall addiction. This formulates self-destructive coping mechanisms that you repeat time and time again.
The dopamine that is produced with these addictive substances is an overload to the brain. The receptors, (parts of the brain absorbing the dopamine) become less sensitive to it and so more and more dopamine is required to attempt to repeat the same initial feeling experienced when using that substance that created the initial pleasurable experience you have attempted to repeat.
I say “attempt/ed to repeat” because you will never actually completely repeat that experience again ever. That would involve exactly the same feelings you were feeling at that time, including the temperature, the people you were with, how you were feeling at this time. It is impossible to recreate an event exactly the same as it was before.

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