Dopamine Deficiency Part II: The Medication Connection
When the topic of substance abuse is broached, the neurotransmitter dopamine is often brought into the conversation. Recalling our earlier discussion, dopamine contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction and directly influences the way our brain achieves happiness by “guiding” our behavior to get to that feeling. Heroin, cocaine, and MDMA (ecstasy) are three of the bigger illicit guns that initially trigger a surge of dopamine in the body. Sugar also induces a massive (but short lived) dopamine surge. The body is filled with protective mechanisms (thankfully!), and if dopamine surges continue, a mechanism will kick in that reduces the number of dopamine receptors available for triggering. Consequently, it becomes harder and harder to achieve the same feelings of pleasure. As you may have already guessed, common opioid prescription medications do this too especially when used chronically. Some offenders would include:
When you review the introduction to dopamine deficiency (see Part I), you’ll notice that neurodegenerative conditions, chronic back pain, aches and pains, and persistent constipation are symptoms of deficiency. Those are also four very common complaints in people who use these pain medications chronically. Certainly, other factors are involved as well (do some digging!), but dopamine deficiency plays a significant role.
Dopamine sabotage by way of medication💊 is also an unfortunate common side effect of drugs that block dopamine binding to receptor sites. When a medication does this, dopamine cannot “do its work” in the body.
💊Haloperidol is used to treat schizophrenia, Tourettes, and severe behavioral problems in children and adults.
💊Risperidone is used to treat schizophrenia, disinterest in life, strong or “inappropriate” emotions, or disturbed thinking.
💊Metoclopramide is used to treat GERD, nausea/ vomiting, and slowed gut motility.
💊Olanzapine, Aripiprazole, Quetiapine are used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.
💊Buspirone is used to treat anxiety.
🧐If you were to pick up and read a package insert on each of these medications, you would find side effects listed giving evidence of dopamine deficiency (refer to Part I for symptoms).
What I write next might be the most technical and one of the most important concepts to understand in this entire book, so stay with me…. even if the slogging feels uphill! According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 1 in 5 adults have a mood disorder in the USA. Sadly, when prowling around the NIMH website, I found very little in the way of suggesting lab work to rule out a hormonal, thyroid, or nutrient imbalance, or selfcare suggestions (clean diet, well developed exercise routines, tips on improved sleep hygiene, or connecting with a high frequency community, and most importantly, having a personal relationship with God). The website is quick to advocate for mental health medicating. Go figure.
💊Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) are a class of drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Common SSRI’s include 💊Citalopram, 💊, Fluoxetine, 💊Paroxetine, and 💊Sertraline. By definition, this class of drugs is supposed to be “selective” in their mechanism of action, and while they are marketed as products that raise serotonin in the brain, they simultaneously lower dopamine levels significantly. Additionally, there is very strong evidence that, depending on the individual and the SSRI used, there may be a significant effect on the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis in the brain, where cortisol, hormones (including serotonin and dopamine) are regulated and long term memories are stored. The hypothalamus and the pituitary play a significant role in regulating the thyroid. You may imagine how important all of this is in balanced overall body and brain function.
I offer this information to you as clues, not as medical direction or individualized medical advice. Risk versus benefit should always be first and foremost whenever utilizing a medication, especially one that modulates “motherboard” (brain) activity. I read one doctor’s thoughts recently who described antidepressant use as a “sledgehammer to repair a fine watch.” Does the tool fit the need? That is only for you and your healthcare provider to decide.
Last week, I listened to a podcast that dovetailed into this topic. It is called “Unscientific Diagnoses Medicalize Normal Human Experience”. I’ve posted a link to this 30 minute podcast below. You won’t regret listening to it. We must get back to living in tightly knit communities where we love and care for one another well while also learning that experiencing emotions in a healthy manner is part of vibrant living. I’m so very very thankful for Young Living, because we exemplify that community, and there is plenty of room at the table for everyone who wants to #knowbetteranddobetter for themselves and their families.
We live in a broken world that is bandaged by a broken medical system. I encourage you to use your finely tuned tools for finely tuned processes in the body. Whenever possible, leave the sledgehammer in the shed.
Next week, I’ll discuss readily available inexpensive tools to help support optimal dopamine levels.
(If you answered #2, you’d be correct!)