Signs You Could Have High Levels Of Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in the functioning of the brain and body. It is a chemical messenger that transmits signals between neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain (via Cleveland Clinic). Dopamine involves complex physiological and psychological processes, including regulating pleasure, memory, and movement. When dopamine is released in response to positive stimuli, such as food, sex, or social interaction, it creates a sense of reward and reinforces behavior that is perceived as pleasurable — a process called "the brain's reward pathway."

Dopamine also plays a critical role in regulating motivation and drive. When dopamine levels are low, people may experience a lack of motivation and decreased happiness. Interestingly, some conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are associated with low dopamine levels, says the clinic. However, although it's often referred to as the "feel-good" chemical, high dopamine levels can also negatively affect the body and mind.

Signs you could have high levels of dopamine

According to Cleveland Clinic, people with high dopamine levels may exhibit signs of mania. Mania is a mental health condition characterized by an intense and persistent feeling of heightened energy, excitement, and euphoria, says Healthline. It is a symptom of several psychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder. A 2017 study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry reiterates this link between mania and high dopamine levels. According to the study, mania is underlined by a hyperdopaminergic state.

High dopamine levels may also cause hallucinations — perceptions that occur without any external stimulus. According to a 2009 study published in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal, high dopamine is linked to hallucinations in several conditions, including schizophrenia and drug-induced psychosis. The study also highlights delusions as another sign of high dopamine levels. Delusions are beliefs not based on reality, facts, or evidence, explains Cleveland Clinic. Delusions can also be a symptom of various mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

How do drugs affect dopamine levels?

Drugs can affect dopamine levels in several ways. According to a 2014 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, stimulant drugs such as cocaine increase dopamine release in the brain. Cocaine blocks dopamine reuptake, accumulating dopamine in the synapse. This subsequently increases dopamine signaling, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. These actions can result in elevated dopamine levels in certain brain areas, leading to various effects — including feelings of pleasure, reward, and euphoria. Amphetamines also increase dopamine release and also interfere with dopamine storage, leading to an increase in dopamine levels in the brain, according to McGill University.

Other drugs, such as antipsychotics, work by blocking dopamine receptors, reducing dopamine activity in the brain, explains This action can help to alleviate symptoms of certain mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, where there is an excess of dopamine activity in certain areas of the brain.