How does addiction affect dopamine?


Addiction significantly impacts dopamine levels in the brain. explains that engaging in activities or substances that dramatically increase dopamine can lead to addiction. This occurs because these activities deplete dopamine over time, causing the baseline levels of dopamine to drop. Consequently, people feel worse, leading them to pursue the activity again, mistakenly believing it will restore their dopamine levels. However, this only further depletes dopamine, lowering their baseline even more and reducing the overall experience of pleasure 1.

Moreover, the constant pursuit of dopamine through pleasurable activities shifts the brain's pleasure-pain balance. Every pleasure that causes dopamine release is counteracted by a slight increase in pain, experienced as a craving for more. Over time, this can lead to addiction, as the 'pain' side of the balance outweighs the pleasure, leading individuals into a cycle where they are less able to derive pleasure from other sources. To counter this, it's advised to occasionally engage in boredom or low-stimulus activities to reset this balance and prevent the downward spiral into addiction 2.

Dopamine and Addiction

Andrew explains how addiction is caused by pursuing activities that lead to huge increases in dopamine. Pursuing such activities depletes dopamine and causes a severe drop in baseline, leading to addiction. He also talks about how dopamine is not just evoked by one activity but by all activities that bring pleasure, leading to a narrowing of the things that bring pleasure.

Huberman Lab

Controlling Your Dopamine For Motivation, Focus & Satisfaction | Huberman Lab Podcast #39