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What Does Dopamine Do?

A woman happily works out.
True happiness comes from living a life that you’re proud of, not artificial highs.


Drugs and alcohol are the ultimate shortcut.

Instead of having to work hard at life, make the right choices and earn good feelings, you can flood your body with them in an instant. In fact, drugs and alcohol can release up to 10 times as much dopamine as natural rewards do.

You don’t have to put in the time, but you still get to feel good. The only problem, as we all know, is that repeated drug and alcohol use can lead to addiction.

Understanding Addiction

The brain can only handle so much dopamine. If it’s continuously flooded with the large amounts produced by, say, cocaine or vodka, the brain adapts by producing less dopamine or eliminating dopamine receptors.

Another word for this is tolerance.

And it means that you’ll need to keep using more of a substance to get the same effect. It also means that, when you stop using the substance, you’ll feel unnaturally low. That’s because your brain has put the brakes on its own dopamine production.

So what happens once you’re addicted? Without drugs or alcohol you feel lousy. With them, you feel OK, but you certainly don’t experience the highs that you did when you first started using.

How to Raise Dopamine Naturally

There’s good news and bad news in this department. The good news is that you can raise your dopamine levels naturally. The bad news is that there are no shortcuts.

To feel good, you have to live a good life. That means eating healthy by avoiding the bad stuff (sugar, caffeine and trans fat) and embracing the good stuff (fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins). It also means getting enough sleep, exercising and learning to deal with stress in healthy ways.

There is evidence that there are a few foods that are especially good for you. So you can also try eating more bananas, leafy greens, almonds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt and avocados.

Living a clean and healthy life does pay off, but it takes time, perseverance and patience. Every day, you’ll feel a little better. And every morning you can wake up knowing you’ve done the right thing.

Addiction Treatment Near Denver

At The Raleigh House, our team of experts work together to address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Therapy (both individual and group) is the cornerstone of treatment, but we also use nutrition, exercise, music and art to help restore dopamine levels and get your life back on track. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about our drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.

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