Causes of Elevated Dopamine Levels? Symptoms and Treatment Options

Dopamine is a chemical (catecholamine) which plays important role in brain and body of human beings. Dopamine predominantly acts as a neurotransmitter. It transmits signal from one nerve cell to another. It has a role in several bodily functions, for example it initiates muscle movement, it is important for memory, learning, sleep, mood, attention. Its release is involved with pleasure and reward. Dopamine is important for motivation and hence it is also called as motivational molecule. In a sense, dopamine provides a drive and keeps you focused to increase your productivity.

Dopamine is produced in many parts of brain for example in ventral tegmental area (VTA), substantia niagra, and in the hypothalamus. Most rewards and accomplishments increase dopamine level in the brain. There are so many factors that can increase dopamine level such as site of delicious food, sex, and even illegal drugs are able to elevate the level of dopamine. Dopamine is at its peak just before an orgasm. Dopamine also has its action of physical side such as it helps to keep the blood vessels wide and open, reduce the level of insulin, sodium excretion, improves overall immunity.
Although optimum level is always necessary for the maintaining better mental and physical health, excessive amount of dopamine can be detrimental. Let us know the reasons that can trigger elevated level of dopamine in the body.

Causes of Elevated Dopamine Level

Elevated dopamine level can occur due to several reasons. Dopamine is considered to be a reward transmitting chemical. It tells the brain that you want something more than what you posses.  It is released quickly when you do certain actions that are linked with your survival or even pleasure. For example dopamine is released while eating, drinking and even while performing sex.

These activities elevate dopamine level temporarily but there are certain condition and substances that may increase the level too high which can precipitate harmful effects.

Illicit drugs: Illicit drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and several other psychostimulants can cause rise of dopamine level.

Medicinal drugs: There are certain medicinal drugs that can elevate dopamine level. The best example is that of drug used in Parkinson’s disease. Certain medicine used to treat attention deficit disorder also triggers exorbitant rise in dopamine level.

Risk takers: Dopamine level is often found to be extremely high among people who are risk takers. The neurotransmitter is high among those who are adventurous and participate in thrilling activities.

Lack of sleep: People who have reduced sleep or are suffering from insomnia are prone to elevated level of dopamine.

Increased intake of coffee and sugar: Both are known to spike up dopamine levels.

Schizophrenia: Certain type of schizophrenia, a mental disorder has been influenced by excess production of dopamine in the brain.

Infatuation and falling in love: People who fall in love are naturally ‘high’ and elated in their energy level. The euphoric feeling is because of excess production of dopamine. Such feeling is present in people who have fallen in love.

Besides the above factors, some other things such as exercise, foods such as pumpkin, sesame seeds, almonds, bananas, or fruits and vegetable that contain tyrosine increase the level of dopamine. Vitamin C and E supplements are known to increase dopamine level.

Symptoms of Elevated Dopamine:

There are several symptoms associated with high level of dopamine in the brain. However, each person may present with different set of symptoms. This is because the brain structure involved, genetics as well as neurobiology in each person may be different to produce elevated dopamine level. The symptoms are as follows:

  • Agitation
  • Increase in cognitive ability
  • Increased feeling of pleasure
  • Feels boost in energy
  • Increased sexual desire and performance. High level of dopamine in brain heightens a person’s sex drive and pleasure.
  • Hyperactive
  • Lack of sleep
  • Motivated and perform to the best of their abilities a given task. Highly focused.
  • Always full of energy and increased tendency to perform thrilling activities.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased salivation

Treatment Options:

High level of dopamine persistently can be problematic for many people. In a person who is not suffering from any mental illness must avoid stimulating factors. In case of mentally ill patients, antipsychotic medicines are beneficial to lower the dopamine level. Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and various other types of psychosis. A diet rich in serotonin, another brain chemical will help to reduce the effect of high dopamine level. For example person may avoid excess intake of coffee, tea and other caffeinated soft drinks. Certain supplements that increase the level of serotonin can offset the bad effects of dopamine. These naturally occurring supplements include St. John’s Wort, melatonin, white mulberry, lemon essential oil, licorice etc.