All of us are vulnerable to the ADDICTION cycle when we experience a deficiency in our brain chemical, Dopamine. Disturbances in the dopamine "reward system" are associated with addictive behaviors.
Anything you enjoy doing but can't seem to rein in can cause a release of dopamine. When this happens, you will initially feel that surge of excitement, or "rush." This is true whether the addiction is to drugs, alcohol, or shopping. But if you're already low in dopamine and you abuse drugs or alcohol, you'll feel less and less satisfied with each exposure.
Unfortunately, now that you've experienced a good rush, you'll keep craving the experience again. So not only do you become addicted to the substance or experience, but you become addicted to dopamine, even as your brain produces less and less. Because addiction is almost always a self-medication model, it's exactly how the addiction cycle begins.
The catch is that the brain can't keep up with demand. Instead, it strives to reach homeostasis, or balance, so that each time you are exposed to the addictive substance or behavior, the brain releases less dopamine, not more. When this happens, the euphoric feeling doesn't come back at all. Yet low-dopamine people will still continue to drink or smoke, in hope of it's returning. Unfortunately, these addictions affect every part of your health, including your thinking.
The Good News is that you can break the cycle. You need to learn how to increase dopamine in a more balanced approach: first choosing foods, then nutrients, and sometimes even medications, so that alcohol, drugs, or shopping doesn't become your only source of a dopamine rush. By increasing levels of dopamine, you'll be able to help yourself break the cycle of addiction and gain control over your life. You'll also be able to create new brain cells to replace the ones you've destroyed in the past.
Remember, addiction is serious and will sometimes require professional help. We at PATH Medical can help you to restore your brain to a balanced chemical state.
Eric R. Braverman, M.D.
Dr. Braverman is a Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University and NYU Medical School, did brain research at Harvard Medical School, and trained at an affiliate of Yale Medical School. He is acknowledged worldwide as an expert in brain-based diagnosis and treatment, and he lectures to and trains doctors in anti-aging medicine.