Dopamine and Norepinephrine and Their Contribution to Addiction

Dopamine and norepinephrine are very crucial neurotransmitters whose functions can never be underestimated. These are some of the most crucial neurotransmitters in the body. In particular, dopamine has very many functions in the body but to many people it is famous for its good feeling effects that it is always identified with but this should not be the case as it has functions beyond the mesolimbic pathway. In the brain dopamine plays such roles as: It plays a big role in starting movement, and the destruction of dopamine neurons in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra is what produces the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine is involved in the frontal cortex in executive functions like attention and feelings among others. In the rest of the body, dopamine is involved in nausea, in kidney function, and in heart function. Though only relevant to most people when it comes to such aspects as motivation, addiction, attention or lust, dopamine is a crucial neurotransmitter that also does vital functions in different pathways. Therefore dopamine should not only be limited to the mesolimbic pathway. A pathway which starts with cells in the ventral tegmental area, buried deep in the middle of the brain, which send their projections out to places like the nucleus accumbens and the cortex.  the levels of dopamine is naturally controlled by the brain, for example when a person engages  in pleasurable activities the brain will increase the level of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, however during addiction the dopamine signaling in this area is changed. For any drug to have any pleasurable feeling to the user then the level of dopamine must be increased and this is what causes euphoric feelings that drug users will do anything to achieve.


Dopamine depletion and cocaine addiction

Despite one of the most dangerous drugs of pleasure, cocaine has remained to be one of the drugs that are highly abused worldwide. Cocaine works in such a way that it targets the dopamine which is a neurotransmitter related with euphoric feelings. When taken cocaine will cause a surge of dopamine extracellular in limbic areas, specifically, nucleus accumbens it is this surge that causes euphoric effects cocaine is known for. It is the euphoric properties of cocaine that lead to the development of chronic abuse, and appear to involve the acute activation of central dopamine neuronal systems. Dopamine plays a key role in reward system and stimulation behavior. However, when a person uses cocaine for a long time his neurotransmitter and neuroendocrine alterations will eventually occur. Dopamine depletion is hypothesized to result from overstimulation of these neurons and excessive synaptic metabolism of the neurotransmitter. It is this depletion of dopamine that may underlie dysphoric aspects of cocaine abstinence, and cocaine cravings.  With many research findings on cocaine relations with dopamine, it is clear that cocaine addiction stems from the depletion of synaptic dopamine in the mesolimbic dopamine reward system, leading to a dysphoric withdrawal state that drives cocaine seeking to restore dopamine to normal, drug-dependence level.

After using cocaine for a long time, your brain will be conditioned to use cocaine in order to raise cocaine to the required levels and this result in addicted brain that can’t function without taking cocaine. At this stage it will be hard for an addict to quit using this drug as every time you try to quit all the withdrawal symptoms will set in thereby causing addiction and dependence thereafter. These cravings contribute not only to addiction but to relapse after a hard-won sobriety especially when the addict encounters triggers.

Norepinephrine and Drug Addiction

Norepinephrine is a very vital neurotransmitter in the brain that is also one of the most abundant in the brain. It is important for such roles as selective attention, general arousal, and stress reactions in challenging environments. Norepinephrine has been implicated by several studies as a key mediator of drug reward for three primary reasons. First, the noradrenergic pathways support intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) and modulate drug-induced changes in ICSS threshold. Secondly, the biochemical activity of psychostimulant drugs includes blockade of Norepinephrine reuptake and enhancement of Norepinephrine release and thirdly, compounds that interfere with Norepinephrine synthesis or signaling influence drug self-administration. The idea that drugs of abuse act via the endogenous reward systems in the brain first arose when psychostimulants such as amphetamine and cocaine have been found to alter support intracranial self-stimulation thresholds. One interpretation of these results was that Norepinephrine mediates the effect of psychostimulants on support intracranial self-stimulation, because these drugs cause Norepinephrine release, block Norepinephrine reuptake or do both.


In a 1970s research done by Davis WM and Smith SG in a study titled: Catecholaminergic mechanisms of reinforcement: direct assessment by drug-self-administration, it was found that catecholamines were important in the mediation of opiate self-administration. in this research, a series of experiments showed that depletion of Norepinephrine and dopamine with amphetamine , a drug which is known to inhibit tyrosine hydroxylase prevents or attenuates the self-administration of morphine in rodents and in nonhuman primates as was shown earlier by Pozuelo and Kerr in 1972.

Finally, Drug addiction is a vice that should be fought by all means that is why we at AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center are committed to availing help to addicts and offering them a place to call home. We offer NER Treatment and Amino acid therapy that are the most effective approaches to addiction treatment and recovery. You call on Dr. Dalal Akoury (MD) today and begin your journey to victory against addiction.

Dopamine and Norepinephrine and Their Roles in Causing Addiction