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Dopamine

October 25, 2006

This from an article linked from Ran’s site

This suggests that the longer one uses [heroin], the more fierce the psychological addiction, yet we also assume that psychological factors—childhood trauma, history of family dependency, unhealthy living situations, poverty, etc.—make some of us more vulnerable in the first place. A chicken or the egg sort of cycle. Some research indicates that people who get addicted to opiates may already have a deficiency of dopamine in their brains, which predisposes them to addiction to substances like heroin. But whether you’re predisposed or not, if you use heroin with any regularity, you will get addicted because heroin takes over a natural function of brain chemistry: it replaces dopamine. When the heroin stops, no dopamine, your nerves are screaming. Physical addiction is simple. If you don’t do it, you experience pain; since you did it in the first place to alleviate or avoid pain, you just do it again.

And via Regaining Soil and Sanity an Guardian newspaper article on the lack of Omega 3 in our diet and what happens to our brain when the body uses Omega 6 in it’s place:

Communication between the nerve cells depends on neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, docking with receptors in the nerve cell membrane.

Omega-3 DHA is very long and highly flexible. When it is incorporated into the nerve cell membrane it helps make the membrane itself elastic and fluid so that signals pass through it efficiently. But if the wrong fatty acids are incorporated into the membrane, the neurotransmitters can’t dock properly. We know from many other studies what happens when the neurotransmitter systems don’t work efficiently. Low serotonin levels are known to predict an increased risk of suicide, depression and violent and impulsive behaviour. And dopamine is what controls the reward processes in the brain…

There is also evidence that deficiencies in DHA/EPA at times when the brain is developing rapidly – in the womb, in the first 5 years of life and at puberty – can affect its architecture permanently. Animal studies have shown that those deprived of omega-3 fatty acids over two generations have offspring who cannot release dopamine and serotonin so effectively.

I’m not intending to draw in conclusions but the cross pollination of these two articles is kind of interesting.

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