Dopamine plays a central role in our well-being and our ability to experience feelings of pleasure and motivation. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter; often referred to as the ʺhappy hormoneʺ, it is the focus of numerous studies in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and medicine. In this article, we look at the role of dopamine, how it interacts with various drugs, the effects of those interactions, and how dopamine production can be stimulated naturally. 

The Role and Mechanism of Dopamine

Dopamine is a transmitter that acts as a chemical ʺmessengerʺ in the brain. It is involved in numerous functions including motor control and the ability to feel pleasure and motivation. Dopamine also affects decision-making and reward perception.

Interaction With Other Drugs

Drugs can significantly alter dopamine levels in the brain. For example, cocaine is known to cause a rapid increase in the amount of dopamine that is released in the brain, leading to intense feelings of joy and euphoria.  However, over time, drugs can deplete dopamine reserves, leading to feelings of emptiness and depression once the drug’s effects wear off. Opiates (such as heroine or morphine) work differently, by increasing the sensitivity of dopamine receptors and altering the response to pain and stress as well as emotion regulation.

  • Cannabis: THC, the active component of cannabis, also stimulates dopamine release, but its effects are more nuanced. While it can increase feelings of pleasure, it can also cause feelings of paranoia and anxiety.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol stimulates the release of dopamine in certain parts of the brain, leading to feelings of relaxation and pleasure. However, chronic alcohol use can disrupt this system and lead to dependency.
  • MDMA (Ecstasy): MDMA increases the level of several neurotransmitters, including dopamine, thereby triggering feelings of pleasure, attachment and emotional openness. Its long-term effects can include paranoia, depression, hallucinations and dependency, to name just a few.

Addiction, Tolerance and Long-term Effects

The repeated surge in dopamine levels experienced as a result of drug use can lead to dependency; this is because, as the brain adapts to those higher levels of dopamine, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve the same feelings of pleasure without the use of drugs. This can lead to tolerance, where increasing amounts of a drug are needed to produce the same effect. Ceasing drug use can then produce withdrawal symptoms, making the rehabilitation process difficult. In the long term, this can lead to severe addiction and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Social impacts can include job loss, dropping out of school, the breakdown of family relationships and isolation.

How to Boost Dopamine Naturally

Dopamine levels can be boosted naturally, without the use of drugs. Here are a few tips:

  • Exercise and physical activity: physical activity is one of the most efficient ways of increasing dopamine levels naturally. The dopamine hormone is released during and after exercise, producing a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure, as well as motivation and concentration.
  • Healthy sleeping habits: getting enough quality sleep is essential to proper dopamine regulation. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Exposure to sunlight: exposure to sunlight can increase dopamine production, so try to go outside and enjoy the natural daylight whenever you can.
  • Tyrosine-rich food: tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine. Make sure to eat foods that are rich in tyrosine, such as bananas, avocadoes, eggs and nuts.
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol: excessive use of alcohol and other substances can disrupt dopamine levels. Limiting or avoiding consumption of these substances can help you maintain healthy dopamine levels.
  • Socialize: spending time with friends and family also helps stimulate dopamine release. Positive social interaction is linked to an increase of the dopamine hormone.
  • Be creative: engaging in creative activities such as painting, writing or even cooking is another way of increasing dopamine naturally.
  • Therapy and professional support: if you’re feeling overwhelmed, a professional can help you understand and work with your dopamine levels in a way that is suitable for you. Our programs provide the tools you need to improve your self-confidence and self-respect, and to manage the challenges of every day life without resorting to substance use.


When you train your brain to increase its dopamine levels naturally, you’re also training it to resist substances that increase dopamine artificially (sugar, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc.).

***The information contained in this article is provided for educational purposes only, and should in no way be construed as a recommendation to use a specific treatment, product or plan of action. The information provided in this article must not be used as a substitute for qualified professional help.

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