Hormone Dopamine Linked to Addiction and Risk-Taking

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New research on dopamine and dopamine receptor profiles could lead to new drug addiction prevention and treatments.

Japanese and Danish scientists have shown in new research that those with higher dopamine levels in the brain have a greater need for stimulation, due in part to the lowered dopamine-sensitivity.

Dopamine is the “gratification” hormone, widely known to relate to the physiology of addiction. Previous research has discovered that drug addictions such as cocaine addiction work by causing a build-up of dopamine in the brain. This build up, in turn, causes a lower sensitivity to the neurotransmitter.

However, according to the new research, it is the naturally occurring higher levels of dopamine in the brain that can lead to addictive behaviours. Dopamine levels can indicate a natural predisposition to risk-taking, and addiction.

Dopamine has been connected to both behaviours—each involve chasing a high, whether naturally induced or chemically. As well, drug addiction can be classified as a high-risk behaviour. Studies have shown that sensation seeking, the constant need for stimulation, and drug or alcohol abuse involves the same reward system in the brain.

Higher levels of dopamine, and lower sensitivity to the hormone, leads to greater risk-taking—and thus greater chance of addiction to drugs, gambling, and more.

Lead by Albert Gjedde of Copenhagen University, researchers used brain scans of volunteers to measure dopamine and dopamine receptor levels. Those on the higher end of the dopamine scale felt less affects from the same amount of the hormone than those on the lower end of the scale.

They also discovered that those who fell on opposite ends of the scale had significantly different dopamine and dopamine receptor profiles.

Their research suggests that it could be more effective to increase or decrease dopamine levels, rather than try to block dopamine receptors in the brain, to treat drug addiction. These findings could help to develop new ways to prevent and treat addiction.

Source: The National Post

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Hormone Dopamine Linked to Addiction and Risk-Taking

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