Man struggling with addiction and mental health

There’s a lot that goes into developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but many people seem to get caught up on dopamine and its connection to addiction. While dopamine is indeed a strong chemical that creates a positive feeling when you do something rewarding, it isn’t the root cause of addiction it’s made out to be. The interaction dopamine has with forming addiction is still not fully known, but there are certain myths that have been debunked that you should know about.

Dopamine Doesn’t Directly Lead To Pleasure

The idea that dopamine is the sole chemical responsible for that feeling you get when you get a promotion or find an item you thought was lost forever is nothing new, but research is showing that dopamine has little impact on the creation of euphoria or pleasure itself. Instead, dopamine is responsible for linking certain experiences to the positive feeling they create.

Dopamine’s role in addiction is related more to the tolerance that develops to a specific substance whether that be drugs or alcohol. Building a tolerance happens when your body adjusts how it functions based on the presence of an external substance. The longer you abuse a substance, the stronger your tolerance becomes and the more you need to feel the same effect as the dopamine created is more than your system can handle. Eventually natural dopamine production and receptors start to decline while the urge to drink or use drugs still stays strong.

No, You Can’t Get Addicted to Dopamine

Some believe that substance addiction is actually an addiction to dopamine itself. Since we know that dopamine isn’t the cause of pleasurable feelings but rather what links them to certain experiences, we can see that anything becomes addicting if it makes the individual feel good. The better something makes you feel, the stronger the link dopamine makes within your memory.

Think about an exciting first experience you had whether it be riding a bike without training wheels, getting on a huge roller coaster, or cooking your first meal that everyone loved. These are each connected to euphoric feelings due to dopamine and we try to recreate that feeling by doing the same thing again. This logic follows into drug and alcohol use but with potentially fatal side effects if use is left unchecked.

How To Check In With Your Substance Use

There’s no shortage of contributing factors when it comes to addiction which is why it’s important to know certain signs and predispositions that can increase the odds of developing one. The most commonly cited sources of addiction risks include:

  • Genetics and family history of addiction.
  • Physical or mental health issues that lead to self-medication with drugs or alcohol.
  • Exposure to drug or alcohol use at home or in peer groups.
  • Stress from school or work.
  • Drug or alcohol use as a youth which increases the odds of getting addicted later on.

Possessing any or even all of these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll get addicted to something the first time it creates a good feeling, but you should keep an eye on your relationship with these sources of pleasure and practice moderation.

Getting Help Can Stop Addiction in Its Tracks

Addiction is a lifelong disease that can’t be cured by simply putting a stop to substance use. Once it develops, it starts impacting your brain in a way that requires medical attention to undo. At America’s Rehab Campus, trained clinicians and psychologists help you unravel addiction’s grasp on your mind and body while tackling the root causes and triggers that led to it in the first place. Our goal is always long-term sobriety and equipping you for a successful life after treatment.

Find out how we can help you or a loved one with a free consultation by reaching out today!