Dopamine Resistance and Alcohol Abuse

Dopamine Resistance and Alcohol AbuseResearchers continue to study how alcohol affects brain chemicals, like dopamine, which is associated with reward. Alcoholics may suffer from withdrawal symptoms that could be related to dopamine levels in the brain. This is a dangerous problem that will require professional help for someone to become clean. If alcohol affects your dopamine levels and causes an addiction, seek treatment now.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcoholism as a disease with the following symptoms:

  • Cravings—Strong urges to drink
  • Loss of control—Feeling helpless to stop drinking once you start
  • Physical dependence—Withdrawal symptoms, such as shakiness and anxiety, if someone goes long enough without a drink
  • Tolerance—Needing to drink larger amounts of alcohol to feel the same effect

If you recognize any of these symptoms in either yourself or a loved one, they may stem from alcohol abuse.

Dopamine and Alcohol Addiction

Researchers funded by the NIAAA studied the ways dopamine levels relate to alcohol addiction. The authors of a NIAAA-funded article, Neurobiology of Alcohol Dependence, say dopamine is related to an individual’s desire to drink alcohol. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects the way people respond to environmental changes, such as learned behaviors. It produces pleasure when someone repeats an action that was considered pleasurable the first time he did it. Furthermore, NIAAA researchers say alcoholics have lower dopamine levels when they stop drinking. They believe the decreased dopamine levels contribute to withdrawal symptoms, and eventually encourage a person to begin drinking again. In short, if you think that alcoholism is strictly a physical problem, modern research refutes this claim.

Dopamine and Genetic Responses to Alcohol

Certain receptors in the brain determine if dopamine is released when a person drinks alcohol. The receptors, known as opioid peptides, help begin the neurochemical process that produces pleasure. A 2010 study led by NIAAA researchers found that a gene may be tied to dopamine release after alcohol consumption. Individuals who carry the variant known as 118G experienced higher levels of dopamine after drinking alcohol, while individuals with the more common variant, 118A, did not experience these higher levels. Researchers are looking at the research to determine better ways to treat alcohol addiction. Some individuals may benefit from chemical therapies that affect dopamine levels.

Help Finding Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction is treatable, so if you are looking for an effective treatment program, please call our toll-free helpline now. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions and guide you toward the right treatment options. Call us today for instant help.