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What Do Low Dopamine Levels Have to Do with Depression in Recovery?

What Do Low Dopamine Levels Have to Do with Depression in Recovery?

Addiction is complex, affecting the body, mind, and spirit. People who suffer from addiction find it may be helpful to understand how the brain works in addiction. Low dopamine levels, especially, can play a role in how people experience depression in recovery.

Dopamine as Brain Chemical

Dopamine’s role in addiction and recovery is not completely understood. What scientists and doctors do understand is that the brain chemical influences mood, motivation, and behavior. Most, if not all, addictive substances interact with increasing the feeling of pleasure associated with substance use. Naturally boosting dopamine function can be one way to increase its effects in a positive way.

How Dopamine Works

Dopamine is manufactured inside the brain from the amino acid tyrosine, among others. Once dopamine is released, specialized areas called dopamine receptors eagerly slurp up dopamine floating in the brain. Eating, drinking, and other pleasurable activities can stimulate the release of dopamine.

Shortage of Receptors

Individuals with low dopamine function seek ways to increase the amount of dopamine by stimulating their pleasure centers. They may self-medicate by smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or engaging in compulsive behaviors like gambling or shopping compulsively. Addiction is a way to numb or normalize feelings. There are myriad issues in the body and brain which can lead to depression in recovery. There may be a genetic component as well as environmental factors. Alcoholism and drug abuse can run in families and addiction can alter brain chemistry substantially.

Increasing Dopamine

Dopamine is naturally in the brain but it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. This means if a person is not producing enough dopamine, they cannot take a dopamine pill or get an injection to increase circulating amounts. Naturally increasing the dopamine levels requires getting the amount absorbed into the system by increasing  how many dopamine receptors are there. Natural ways to increase dopamine may include:

  • Avoid sugar
  • Eat foods rich in Tyrosine. Foods rich in this includes bananas, yoghurt, watermelon, cherries, and meats
  • Reduce intake of caffeine, which may temporarily decrease dopamine in the brain
  • Holistic nutrition and therapy can also be helpful

If you struggle with addiction and depression in recovery, there are ways to seek support. Don’t feel you have to suffer in silence and not be able to speak up about the challenges you face in recovery. It is better to face them with community rather than face them alone.

When you feel like you need a safe place to come and experience recovery, Serenity is here. We provide medical staff who can support a transition from addiction to detox and beyond. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 866-294-9401