Since we discussed Serotonin in a previous newsletter, we should also discuss Dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays several important roles in the brain and body. A neurotransmitter is a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. Its chemical formula is C8H11NO2. It belongs to a family of chemicals with high psychoactive properties.
Dopamine was first synthesized in 1910, first identified in the human brain in 1957, and its function as a neurotransmitter was first recognized in 1958. The name comes from a contraction of chemicals in its synthesis.
The anticipation of rewards increases the level of dopamine in the brain, and many addictive drugs increase dopamine release or block its reuptake into neurons following release.
Dopamine has other effects around the body:
- helps widen blood vessels
- helps increase urine output
- helps regulate insulin production
- helps to protect the gastrointestinal tract
- helps control motor function
- helps regulate aggression
Because it seems to be involved in the anticipation of rewards, it is seen as a chemical of pleasure or happiness. Most antipsychotic drugs are dopamine antagonists which reduce dopamine activity. Decreased levels of dopamine have also been associated with painful symptoms. Like serotonin, dopamine levels must be strictly regulated since both an excess and a deficiency can be problematic.
Side effects of dopamine include lowered kidney function and irregular heartbeats, addiction, and an overdose can be fatal. Cocaine, methamphetamine, Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, MDMA (ecstasy) and other psychostimulants generally increase dopamine levels in the brain by a variety of mechanisms.
Dopamine and serotonin are both neurotransmitters; an imbalance of either one can have disastrous effects on health, mental health, digestion, sleep cycle, and so on. The serotonergic system has strong anatomical and functional interactions with the dopaminergic system. While they both affect a lot of the same parts of the body, they do so in distinct ways which are still not fully understood. In the brain in general, dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter and serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. The imbalance of these two chemicals can cause a number of disorders; thus, drugs which mess with either of these play Russian roulette with your brain.
Because both serotonin and dopamine are involved in regulating aggression in different ways, one can see that imbalances can lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors, which is a common side effect of drugs which mess with these neurotransmitters.
Researchers still only conjecture about any relationship between mental symptoms and dopamine, and they are coming to understand that the results do not support the hype.
Psychiatrists have known since the beginning of psychopharmacology that their drugs do not cure any disease. Further, there is no credible evidence that mental health is genetic or linked to dopamine transport; these are just public relations theories to support the marketing and sale of drugs. The manufacturers of every such drug state in the fine print that they don’t really understand how it works. Psychiatric drugs are fraudulently marketed as safe and effective for the sole purpose of earning billions for the psycho-pharmaceutical industry.
These drugs mask the real cause of problems in life and debilitate the individual, so denying him or her the opportunity for real recovery and hope for the future. This is the real reason why psychiatry is a violation of human rights. Psychiatric treatment is not just a failure — it is routinely destructive to the individual and one’s mental health.