Side effects of dopamine



Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 4/9/2019

Dopamine (dopamine hydrochloride) is a catecholamine drug that acts by inotropic effect on the heart muscle (causes more intense contractions) that, in turn, can raise blood pressure. At high doses, Dopamine may help correct low blood pressure due to low systemic vascular resistance. Dopamine is used to treat hypotension (low blood pressure), low cardiac output, and reduced perfusion of body organs due to shock, trauma, and sepsis. Dopamine is available in only the generic form. Side effects of Dopamine include:

  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Goosebumps
  • Shortness of breath

Serious side effects of Dopamine include:

  • Heart arrhythmias that can be life-threatening
  • Kidney damage
  • Gangrene of digits at the higher doses.

Dopamine is packaged in 200, 400 and 800 mg/5 ml vials and must be diluted before it is administered by intravenous methods, and almost always in a hospital by trained personnel or by Emergency Medical Technicians that are trained in its use. Initial doses of Dopamine are started as an intravenous drip at a rate of 5 micrograms per Kg per minute (5 mcg/Kg/min). Then the drug can be increased at a rate of about 5 – 10 mcg increments to obtain the correct dose to treat the individual patient’s symptoms. If rates above 50 mcg/Kg/min are needed, renal output problems may occur; some renal effects may begin at 20 mcg/Kg/min. Dopamine is not for home use. Dopamine may interact with droperidol, epinephrine, haloperidol, midodrine, phenytoin, vasopressin, diuretics (water pills), antidepressants, beta blockers, cough or cold medicine that contains antihistamines or decongestants, ergot medicines, phenothiazines. Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use.

Our Dopamine Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.



The era of dopamine, particularly “low dose dopamine” (LDD), began in 60’s when Goldberg described its effects on four patients affected by end stage congestive heart failure . Drug administration, in doses ranging from 100 to 1,000 mcg/min, increased cardiac output and sodium urinary excretion. This phenomenon occurred at lower doses, and with minimal impact on cardiovascular status.

The same investigators showed that dopamine administration was able to increase plasmatic flow in the kidney, glomerular filtration, and sodium excretion in healthy human subjects . In this study, the dose administered was titrated to achieve maximal renal effect without increasing mean arterial pressure.

In 1965, the same authors investigated the renal effects of dopamine in anaesthetised dogs and concluded that dopamine might exert its action on particular receptors located in the kidneys . Twenty years after research by D’Orio et al., a series of dose response curves, based on renal and haemodynamic effects observed in patients to whom different doses of dopamine were administered, were observed .

The dopamine suppressor dose was at that time defined as the dose at which dopaminergic and possibly adrenergic stimulation prevailed over adrenergic stimulation. This threshold corresponded to the infusion rate: < 5g/kg/min .

Dopamine exerts its effects on the kidneys in dose dependent fashion.

At low doses, such as 0.3–5 μg/Kg/min, dopamine acts on D1 vascular receptors, which in turn increases renal blood flow. It appears that dopamine may additionally interact with D2 receptors located on presynaptic nerve endings, inhibiting the release of norepinephrine . At higher doses, when adrenergic stimulation prevails, renal blood flow is augmented by the increase in cardiac output.

Dopamine is able to induce diuresis and natriuresis by acting on both D1 and D2 receptors located on the proximal tubule, which is the thick ascending loop of the Henle and cortical collecting tubule.

Those effects are achieved by the inhibition of Na+/K+-adenosine triphosphatase activity. In fact, it appears that the primary effect on renal epithelial cells is the removal of the plasma membrane of active Na+/K+ ATPase units. The net effect is the reduced capability of the tubular cells to Na+ transport .

Moreover, the stimulation of D2 receptors located on the collecting tubules of the inner medulla stimulates production of prostaglandin E2, (PGE2), which counterbalances the effects of antidiuretic hormones, augmenting the clearance of free water .

The renal vasodilatory effects are associated with dose-dependent augmentation in renal blood flow and diuresis.

LDD induces a redistribution of intraparenchymal renal blood flow towards the cortical region, counteracting the effect of PGE2 and shunting blood away from the outer medulla .

This can be harmful for two reasons. First, renal medulla has a limited blood supply. Second, it may promote a relative ischemia in a region that is high metabolically active and already works with a lower tension of oxygen.

In fact, although the kidneys receive nearly 20 per cent of cardiac output, the greatest part of the blood flow supplies the outer parenchymal layers .

For years LDD was a widely accepted therapeutic option to limit or prevent acute renal failure in critical care patients, especially those affected by sepsis. Even if largely studied, sepsis is still the greatest danger for these patients’ life, with many obscure sides on its presentation, causes and prevention possibilities . Several investigations were carried out to assess the effects of LDD on renal function in critical patients who were at risk or had established renal failure.

In some studies, LDD administration increased urine output; however, in others, no effect was found .

One study showed a potential negative effect of LDD dopamine administration on tubular function caused by the augmented urinary excretion of retinol binding protein in patients who had undergone coronary bypass surgery . Another paper showed that in post-cardiac surgery, patients with normal preoperative renal function, dopamine was reported to increase renal oxygenation without increasing glomerular filtration rate, tubular sodium reabsorption, or renal oxygen consumption .

In fact, there is convincing evidence from literature that LDD not only is unable to prevent, reverse, or limit the progression of acute renal failure (ARF), but its use, regardless of a clear assessment of the volemic status of the patients, may increase the risk of ARF.

Moreover, a large prospective randomized study by the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Group showed that LDD not only was unable to prevent or reverse acute renal failure, but it failed to improve outcome variables.

In fact, there were no differences in terms of mortality, need of renal replacement therapy, renal recovery, and peak serum creatinine among the patients.

These findings confirmed the results of the retrospective analysis of the North American Septic Shock Trial (NORASEPT), where no reduction of the incidence of acute renal failure, the 28-day mortality, nor the requirement of haemodialysis were observed in septic patients who developed oliguria .

In two recent meta-analyses about the impacts of LDD on ARF, the first by Kellum and Decker, dopamine did not prevent mortality, the onset of acute renal failure, or the need for haemodialysis . The second, by Marik, analysed 15 randomised controlled studies by comparing LDD administration with a placebo; there were no beneficial results in terms of serum creatinine change and incidence of acute renal failure .

It has been argued by some authors that adding LDD in patients requiring norepinephrine may limit its adverse effects on renal circulation and function.

Clear beneficial evidence on renal function of this therapeutic regime is lacking, as shown by studies carried out on experimental animal models and in patients with septic shock who require catecholamine administration.

It seems clear that LDD mediated increases in urinary output in septic shock patients treated with norepinephrine are probably mediated by the augmentation of cardiac output.

Recent evidence has shown that norepinephrine administration can effectively restore an adequate hemodynamic status in adequately fluid resuscitated patients .

The use of norepinephrine has been shown to have a protective effect on renal blood flow and to increase diuresis in animal and human septic shock conditions.

A low dosage dopamine appears to be able to increase in urinary output in critically ill patients, but it doesn’t play any protective role against acute renal failure and does not improve the course of an established acute renal failure.

When administered to critical patients, it may increase the risk of acute renal failure.

It could be interesting, but far from the topic of this review, to consider the use of new molecules in combination with dopamine, as vaptans i.e .

Nootropics for Dopamine – Nourishing a Key Brain Chemical for Performance

Dopamine is important for optimal mental function as well as many of our daily habits and behaviors. It plays an important role in movement, food preference, learning, attention, habits, mood, and more.

But dopamine’s conversational popularity is probably due more to its role in driving our most decadent urges – essentially sex, drugs, and rock n roll – than its less titillating mechanisms.

Here, we’ll discuss how dopamine affects various cognitive functions and how natural remedies like nootropics for dopamine can help balance dopamine levels in your brain for brighter mood and better overall mental performance.

What is Dopamine?

Dopamine has become a part of mainstream culture as well as a popular research topic in neuroscience. And although dopamine has been the focus of more than 110,000 research papers over the last 60 years, it remains a source of controversy among the medical community.

Dopamine’s popular definition differs depending on the context, but scientifically speaking, it is a naturally occurring brain chemical that can stimulate pleasure, euphoria, motivation, attention, and movement.<1>

And it does all this through an intricately linked communication system of neurons that talk to each other via specialized receptor sites.

The “Reward “ Chemical

Dopamine is usually triggered when your brain expects a reward from certain behaviors. It triggers positive feedback and a surge of energy that results from behaviors that enable you to achieve that reward.

Dopamine alerts us to things that meet our needs and motivates us to pursue the things that meet our need and desires.

Dopamine is important for many of our daily behaviors. For instance, it stimulates physical movement, influences dietary cravings, affects how we learn, and can sometimes lead to addictive behaviors.

Dopamine is labeled the “reward hormone” because the brain releases dopamine as a reward for taking steps to reach a goal.

Without enough dopamine, motivation declines, causing a decrease in pleasure received from usually enjoyable activities like hobbies, exercise, music, sex, or social interactions. In addition, low dopamine has been implicated in impulse problems and ADHD.

In other words, inadequate dopamine levels can limit cognitive performance and cause a bad case of the blues.

Learning About Rewards

Few neurons actually make dopamine. A decline of dopamine-manufacturing nerve cells in the substantia nigra is linked to cognitive decline – especially cognitive functions related to movement, but the functions of other dopamine-releasing neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are less well defined, and their roles and mechanisms remain a controversial topic among neuroscientists.

One of the best-defined roles for VTA dopamine neurons relates to learning about rewards.<2> VTA dopamine neurons become activated when something beneficial happens. In an evolutionary aspect, this might include the sudden availability of food or an opportunity for leisure time or procreation.

While dopamine is largely a positive influence on human behaviors, it is also the mechanism that influences addiction to most abused drugs – which cause the release of dopamine and is believed to contribute to their addictive properties.

How Dopamine Works in the Brain

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that nerve cells use to send messages. When a neuron releases dopamine, it crosses a tiny gap called a synapse and attaches to a dopamine receptor on a neighboring neuron.

When dopamine levels are depleted in the brain, signals become jumbled, like static on a television or radio channel. Faulty signals can impair cognitive functions like mood, attention, learning, behavior, movement, and sleep.

Different parts of the brain produce different neurotransmitters. Two brain areas are mainly responsible for dopamine production.

Substantia Nigra

The substantia nigra is a tiny strip that spans both hemispheres at the base of the brain in a region called the midbrain.

Dopamine from the substantia nigra sends signals that prompt movement and influence speech. When dopamine-producing cells in this area die, movement can become impaired.

Extreme dopamine deficiency can result in shakiness, tremors, difficulty walking, eating, or speaking, and general inability to control physical movement. Drugs or implants that stimulate dopamine production can sometimes alleviate these symptoms.

Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA)

The nearby ventral tegmental area (VTA) is another area of the midbrain that produces dopamine. The VTA plays an important role in motivation, thinking, emotions, and addiction.

But VTA dopamine’s best-known role is learning about rewards. VTA dopamine neurons light up when something good happens, causing the brain to signal pleasure. Over time, this mechanism reinforces behaviors that lead to “rewards” and result in feelings of pleasure.

Mesolimbic Pathway

Both of these midbrain areas together are smaller than a postage stamp, but the dopamine they produce carries messages throughout much of the brain.

Dopamine uses many important pathways throughout the brain to send messages. But dopamine that influences mental constructs like motivation, attention, addiction, or lust mainly travels the mesolimbic pathway.

Dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area use this pathway to send messages to the nucleus accumbens and the cortex.

Dopamine and Cognition


As the “reward chemical,” dopamine signals feelings of pleasure and contentment for certain behaviors, often linked to survival needs. This promotes a good mood, which in turn boosts other cognitive functions. Current research suggests that the prefrontal cortex is a recurrent site of integration between mood and cognition and that mood affects executive functions.<3>

Since dopamine levels influence mood, proper dopamine levels and good cognitive function are closely linked.

And mood can impact more than cognitive performance. You mood can affect everything from academic test results to job promotions to social relationships. With a positive mental state, you are more likely to achieve your goals and desires, whatever they may be. But a consistently sour mood can keep you from reaching your goals and having the life you want.

Insufficient dopamine levels can cause emotional imbalance and poor mood. And dysfunctional interaction between dopamine and serotonin mechanisms in the prefrontal cortex can lead to aggression.<4>

More on Nootropics for Mood

Movement and Motivation

Since movement often leads to perceived reward, movement is closely linked to motivation – and dopamine also influences motivation. Without motivation, physical activity can seem undesirable, while laying on the couch seems like a more rewarding activity. But with a lack of physical activity, motivation can decline, leading to a cycle of inertia.

Dopamine produced in the substantia nigra plays an important role in helping initiate movement. Decline in dopamine-producing cells in this brain region can result in loss of executive functions that drive movement and motivation. But numerous studies have shown that boosting dopamine can improve cognitive function – including movement and motivation.<5>

In addition, improved dopamine production can improve cognitive decline associated with dementia, age-related memory loss and head trauma.

More on Nootropics for Motivation


One of dopamine’s main functions is reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. For instance, dopamine is largely what prompts lab animals to repeatedly press a lever or learn the best route through a maze in order to get food.

It’s also partly responsible for food cravings and why you’ll have another slice of pizza , even if you’re full. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.

Dopamine’s role in reward and reinforcement plays an important role in evolution and survival, helping us learn where and how to find crucial staples like food and water so we can go back for more.

More on Nootropics for Learning


Because of its roles in reward and reinforcement, dopamine affects focus and concentration. We usually consider something that leads to a reward as worth our attention.

Dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens may increase in people with post-traumatic stress disorder during periods of heightened vigilance or anxiety. In this brain area, dopamine isn’t related to reward.

Instead, it prompts salience. Salience is more than attention. It is a signal to pay close attention to something. Dopamine’s influence on salience may be part of the mesolimbic pathway’s role in attention deficit disorders and may also influence or reinforce addictive behaviors.

More on Nootropics for Attention


Dopamine from the VTA usually tells the brain when to expect or receive a reward. That reward might be a piece of pie or a favorite song. This dopamine flood signals a desire to repeat the behavior that led to the reward.

And that helps people modify their behaviors in order to get more of that rewarding experience.

Low dopamine levels can cause us to lose interest in important activities like eating and drinking and can lose pleasure in things that once brought us joy, bringing on a state called anhedonia.

More on Nootropics for Behavior

Dopamine Deficiency

Insufficient levels of dopamine can lead to various cognitive impairments, ranging in severity from mild to extreme.

Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms

  • Decreased motivation
  • Procrastination
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Poor memory
  • Inability to focus
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Addiction

Extreme dopamine deficiency can causes permanent degeneration of motor skills, resulting in muscle rigidity and tremors.

Support Dopamine Naturally

There are many ways you can help your brain maintain good dopamine levels. Instead of giving in to cravings or relying on quick, but often harmful, artificial fixes, try balancing your dopamine with these tips:

Reduce sugar intake

Sugar disrupts dopamine levels, causing an unnatural and highly addictive sugar high. And sugar stimulates the same euphoric pathway targeted by alcohol and drugs.

Limit sugar intake to reduce cravings and protect natural dopamine levels. If you struggle with a sweet tooth, chromium picolinate supplements can help decrease sugar cravings.<6>

Limit caffeine

Like sugar, coffee gives you a temporary energy boost, but it can deplete dopamine in the long run. Minimize coffee consumption or switch to decaf to counter dopamine deficiency.<7>

Set a healthy routine

One easy way to boost dopamine is to follow a regular sleep pattern. Ideally, every 24-hour cycle should include seven to eight hours of sleep and regular periods of physical activity.

Irregular sleep cycles combined with lack of exercise can drain dopamine levels. Adequate periods of activity and rest allow the brain to recharge its stores of neurotransmitters.

Did you know? Montmorency Tart Cherry is the best natural source of the hormone melatonin that regulates sleep cycles. We recommend this quality sleep supplement in part because it supplies a 50:1 Montmorency Tart Cherry extract that can support your healthy sleep routine.

Decrease stress levels

Dopamine deficiency is related to high stress levels. While you can’t always control your circumstances, you can find many ways to help deal with daily stress and anxiety better.

Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, reading, praying, journaling, and many other stress-reducing practices can help reduce stress and protect dopamine levels.


Magnesium deficiency can lower dopamine levels, and experts estimate over half of Americans don’t get enough magnesium from their diet.

Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include salt or carbohydrate cravings, high blood pressure, constipation, rapid heartbeat, sore muscle, fatigue, headaches, poor mood, and anxiety.


The antioxidants contained in vitamins like C and E protect brain neurons that use dopamine. Taking a high-quality daily multi-vitamin can help protect neurons from free-radical damage and ensure an ample supply of key nutrients needed for healthy cognitive function.

Peak mental performance begins with good nutrition.

The brain requires an extensive amount of a wide range of micronutrients for proper cognitive functioning. Without the right amount of these essential nootropic vitamins and minerals, our cognitive power can fade, while overall brain health weakens.

More on Nootropic Vitamins and Minerals

Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Dopamine

Nootropics can safely increase dopamine levels without unwanted or harmful side effects.

Research suggests L-Tyrosine, Rhodiola Rosea, L-Theanine, and Citicoline are natural dopamine boosters that can help balance neurotransmitter levels using your body’s inherent mechanisms.

N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine

Stress is an inescapable part of the human experience, and extreme or chronic stress can cause or exacerbate a plethora of mental and cognitive dysfunctions. L-tyrosine may help mitigate the effects of high stress.

N-Acetyl L-tyrosine is the active and more bioavailable form of L-tyrosine – a precursor to catecholamines, including dopamine. Clinical trials show L-tyrosine bioavailability can influence the synthesis of both dopamine and norepinephrine in experimental animals – and probably in humans.

  • Stress increases catecholamine levels, which can be followed by depletion. L-tyrosine can reduce stress-induced catecholamine increase and protect normal dopamine levels.<8>

Tyrosine forms DOPA, which converts to dopamine. By supporting dopamine production, N-Acetyl L-tyrosine supplements can enhance cognitive function and mental performance, especially under stressful situations.<9>

More on Mind Lab Pro® N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine


L-theanine is an amino acid that induces alpha brainwaves for a state of alert relaxation.

Found in green tea and some mushrooms, L-theanine can cross the blood-brain barrier to boost dopamine levels. It’s natural antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects reduce the symptoms of mental and physical stress and improve learning and memory.

In addition to increasing dopamine and other brain chemicals that promote feelings of calm, L-theanine reduces brain chemicals that are linked to anxiety and stress, helping to protect brain cells against the long-term effects of stress and age-related neural damage.

L-theanine works with caffeine to enhance cognitive skills. Research shows L-theanine combined with caffeine can improve attention, enhance visual information processing, and increase accuracy while multitasking.

  • A single dose of L-theanine – as low as 100 mg – significantly improves attention and focus compared to placebo.<10>

More on Mind Lab Pro® L-Theanine


CDP Choline, one of the major components in Citicoline, encourages dopamine release and improves overall dopamine levels by acting as a dopamine agonist and inhibiting dopamine reuptake.

Because Citicoline is water soluble, the body readily absorbs it into the bloodstream, giving it a 90% bioavailability rate and increasing its effectiveness. But this is just one of many reasons Citicoline is one of the best overall nootropics for dopamine.

  • Research along with preliminary evience in clinical trials on its effectiveness at reducing cravings in cocaine users suggests that Citicoline’s effect on the dopamine-reward system can help reduce food and drug cravings and control appetite.<11> And Uridine, the other major component in Citicoline, may help when combined with CDP choline.

Uridine, along with CDP Choline, promotes the growth of new dopamine receptors in the brain by activating D1 and D2 receptor signaling, helping to prevent dopamine receptor burn out, especially in brains with fewer dopamine receptors.

This mechanism helps optimize mental function and improve both mood and cognition.

More on Mind Lab Pro® Citicoline

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea, or golden root, is a popular plant used in traditional medicine across Asia and Eastern Europe.

Some of Rhodiola’s benefits include boosting mood, increasing energy, enhancing work performance, and reducing the symptoms of physical and mental stress.

Rhodiola exerts multiple effects on the central nervous system, including improving dopamine’s stability and inhibiting dopamine reuptake, helping to reduce anxiety and fatigue and boosting the brain’s ability to handle stress.

  • Evidence from human studies suggests rhodiola can significantly reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress-related fatigue compared to placebo.<12>

Rhodiola can enhance the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, allowing for better transport of dopamine – which improves physical and mental energy, and promoting overall brain and mental health.

More on Mind Lab Pro® Rhodiola Rosea


Mind Lab Pro® supplies the best nootropics for dopamine to help maintain optimal mental performance safely, without unwanted side effects.

Mind Lab Pro® is the world’s first Universal Nootropic™ — supporting brain activity throughout multiple brain pathways to stimulate 100% Brainpower™.

The highly effective combination of ingredients in Mind Lab Pro® promote bright mood and peak mental performance, optimizing brain energy for superlative cognitive function — helping you perform your best every day.

  1. Brookshire B. Explainer: What is Dopamine? Science News for Students. 17 Jan 2017.
  2. Creed MC, Ntamati NC, Tan KR. VTA GABA neurons modulate specific learning behaviors through the control of dopamine and cholinergic systems. Front. Behav. Neurosci., 22 January 2014. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00008
  3. Seo D, Patrick CJ, Kennealy PJ. Role of Serotonin and Dopamine System Interactions in the Neurobiology of Impulsive Aggression and its Comorbidity with other Clinical Disorders. Aggress Violent Behav. 2008 Oct;13(5):383-395. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2008.06.003
  4. Michell R, Phillips L. The psychological, neurochemical and functional neuroanatomical mediators of the effects of positive and negative mood on executive functions. Neuropsychologia. 2007. 45: 617-629.
  5. Cubells, J. M. and Hernando, C. Clinical trial on the use of cytidine diphosphate choline in Parkinson’s disease. Clin.Ther 1988;10(6):664-671.
  6. MacPherson K. Sugar Can Be Addictive. Princeton University Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Institute. 10 Dec 2008.
  7. Acquas E1, Tanda G, Di Chiara G. Differential Effects of Caffeine on Dopamine and Acetylcholine Transmission in Brain Areas of Drug-naive and Caffeine-pretreated Rats. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2002 Aug; 27(2). doi: 10.1016/S0893-133X(02)00290-7
  8. Young S. L-Tyrosine to alleviate the effects of stress? J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007 May; 32(3): 224.
  9. Leon SL, et al. The dopamine D4 receptor gene 48-base-pair-repeat polymorphism and mood disorders: A meta-analysis. Biol Psychiatry. 2005 May 1;57(9):999-1003.
  10. Foxe JJ, et al. Assessing the effects of caffeine and theanine on the maintenance of vigilance during a sustained attention task. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jun;62(7):2320-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.01.020.
  11. Killgore WDS, et al. Citicoline Affects Appetite and Cortico-Limbic Responses to Images of High Calorie Foods. Int J Eat Disord. 2010 Jan; 43(1): 6–13. doi: 10.1002/eat.20658
  12. Olsson EMG, von Schéele B, Panossian AG. A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Group Study of the Standardised Extract SHR-5 of the Roots of Rhodiola rosea in the Treatment of Subjects with Stress-Related Fatigue. Planta Med 2009; 75(2): 105-112. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1088346

A high dopamine level can lead to more risk taking, addictive behaviors, and mental disorders. Learn about natural remedies and lifestyle changes that help.

What You’ll Learn Here

If anyone has ever called you an “adrenaline junkie” or your personal mantra is “too much is not enough,” too much dopamine may be a problem for you.

Dopamine is a major neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood, sleep, learning, memory, the ability to focus, and motor control.

It’s your “motivation molecule” — it helps you get going in the morning and accomplish what needs to be done throughout the day.

It’s in charge of your brain’s pleasure-reward system and is an integral factor in addictions.

As with any brain chemical, you want to be in that sweet spot of having just the right amount of dopamine — enough, but not too much.

The vast majority of people with brain chemical imbalances have low neurotransmitter levels, not high. (1)

But if you suspect you have a problem with excess dopamine, know that too much can be equally detrimental to your health and mental well-being.

Symptoms of Too Much Dopamine

You need dopamine in just the right amounts. (2)

Too little will leave you feeling unmotivated, blah, and joyless.

But too much can wreak havoc on your life in many destructive ways.

It can make you aggressive, overly competitive, and less cooperative and empathetic. (3, 4, 5, 6)

When under the spell of too much dopamine, you are more likely to take risks and act impulsively. (7)

It can push your libido into hyperdrive and make you more prone to addictions of all kinds. (8)

Interestingly, how you get your thrills may depend on which area of the brain is pumping out dopamine. (9)

This is why some high-dopamine people thrive on making money while others turn to extreme sports.

Excess dopamine plays a role in several mental disorders: (10, 11, 12, 13)

  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • schizophrenia
  • paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • psychosis
  • manic phase of bipolar disorder

Many of these disorders are treated with dopamine antagonists, prescription drugs that work by blocking dopamine receptors.

Fred Previc, PhD, posits in The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History that a “high dopamine” personality is characterized by high intelligence, a sense of personal destiny, an obsession with achieving goals and conquests, an emotional detachment that in many cases leads to ruthlessness, and a risk-taking mentality.

He contends that too much dopamine can push some people over that fine line between genius and madness.

But nowhere does excess dopamine play a more destructive role than with addictions.

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The Link Between Excess Dopamine and Addictions

Dopamine is the “reward” neurotransmitter that tells your brain you want more of something.

It’s released when we take an action that helps ensure our survival, such as eating, drinking, having sex, or making money.

Neuroscientist John Coates reveals in his bestseller The Hour Between Dog and Wolf that these natural activities temporarily raise dopamine by 50-100% over baseline levels, but addictive substances increase dopamine much, much more.

Nicotine increases it by 200%, cocaine 400%, and amphetamines by an astounding 1,000%.

All potentially addictive substances and behaviors — including caffeine, alcohol, sugar, drugs, shopping, video games, cell phone use, online porn, gambling, pursuit of power, and thrill-seeking — flood the brain with unnaturally high levels of dopamine. (14, 15, 16),

Related on Be Brain Fit —
Cell Phone Addiction: What You Need to Know

But dopamine receptors are relatively fragile and this bombardment can damage them or even stimulate them to death.

So to protect your dopamine receptors, a process known as downregulation occurs. (17)

Dopamine receptors become less responsive or even totally shut down.

But this means you will need more and more of your addictive behavior or substance to get a similar buzz from it.

You are now stuck in a vicious cycle of addiction, dopamine production, and downregulation.

Dr. Robert Lustig reports in The Hacking of the American Mind that as long as dopamine receptors are alive they can regenerate, but it can take 12 months or more to get them back to normal.

Prescription Drugs That Can Cause Excess Dopamine

It’s not just illicit drugs that can cause high dopamine — so can prescription medications.

Many are dopamine agonists which means they work by activating dopamine receptors in the brain.

These drugs are usually prescribed for treating low dopamine conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and restless legs syndrome. (18)

The popular antidepressant Wellbutrin works by increasing dopamine as do drugs commonly prescribed for ADHD like Ritalin.

But these drugs can overshoot their target level, causing the symptoms associated with high dopamine.

For example, some Parkinson’s patients have experienced weird side effects, including compulsive gambling, from their dopamine-boosting drugs. (19)

Sadly, some seniors have gambled away their life’s savings before the connection between their behavior and the medication was made.

You can find a complete list of dopaminergic drugs — those that increase dopamine-related activity in the brain — on Wikipedia.

Other Causes of High Dopamine Levels

There are a few other causes of high dopamine that are related to lifestyle.

Stress, which is tough on your brain in many ways, can negatively affect your dopamine system. (20, 21)

Lack of sleep is another highly detrimental lifestyle habit that can contribute to a rise in dopamine.

And when you don’t sleep well, it’s tempting to push through the day on sugar and caffeine, both of which further spike dopamine levels. (22, 23)

There’s a neurochemical reason that sugar and caffeine-laden energy drinks are a favorite of extreme sports enthusiasts.

These substances give their brains the dopamine boost they crave.

Is There a Test for Excess Dopamine?

You may wonder how to know for sure if you are dealing with too much dopamine.

So far, there are no reliable tests for neurotransmitter imbalances, including high dopamine.

Related on Be Brain Fit —
Neurotransmitter Testing: A Dubious Tool (+ what to do instead)

There are tests that measure the amounts of neurotransmitters in bodily fluids — blood, saliva, or urine — but there is no correlation between these levels and those in your brain. (24)

Additionally, there is no scientifically established standard for a “normal” level of dopamine or any other neurotransmitter. (25)

So for now, symptoms are your best indicator of neurotransmitter status.

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How to Decrease Dopamine Naturally

Too much dopamine is often a result of poor lifestyle choices — too much stress, too little sleep, poor diet, partaking of addictive substances, or engaging in risky behaviors.

Clearly addressing these habits and behaviors is the core way to address excessive levels of dopamine in a lasting, meaningful way.

But while you are making these lifestyle changes, there are also a handful of nutritional supplements that can help.

Supplements That Lower High Dopamine Levels

As we’ve seen, there are many prescription drugs that are dopamine antagonists, which work by blocking dopamine receptors.

There are also several natural dopamine antagonists that safely normalize or reduce high levels of dopamine in mentally healthy people.

Note: If you have a dopamine-related mental disorder or take any medications that affect dopamine levels, talk to your doctor before taking any of these supplements.

1. Bacopa

Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is a very popular herb used in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition of medicine.

It’s a popular brain-boosting supplement that enhances memory, learning, and concentration and is especially good for age-related mental decline.

It is also a mood enhancer that reduces both anxiety and depression.

Related on Be Brain Fit —
Bacopa Benefits: 12 Reasons It’s Good for Your Brain

Bacopa is considered an adaptogen — an herb that supports overall health by helping the body achieve a state of balance known as homeostasis.

Bacopa regulates levels of dopamine, serotonin, and GABA by moving production up and down as needed. (26)

This ability makes bacopa a unique, excellent all-purpose herb for achieving and maintaining overall neurotransmitter balance.

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2. White Mulberry

White mulberry (Morus alba) is a small ornamental tree native to China that’s widely cultivated to feed silkworms.

It now grows wild throughout the United States and in some areas is considered a pest.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it’s used to treat fever, cough, and diabetes, to increase vitality, and to darken prematurely grey hair. (27)

White mulberry supplements are sold mainly to regulate blood sugar, control appetite, and help with weight loss, but they also effectively lower excess dopamine. (28, 29)

3. Tryptophan and 5-HTP

Some amino acids are also precursors of specific neurotransmitters.

Tryptophan, an amino acid found in animal protein sources, is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

It is also the precursor to another amino acid, 5-HTP.

Related on Be Brain Fit —
Use Tryptophan to Boost Serotonin for Better Mental Health

You may recognize 5-HTP as a popular supplement usually taken for insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

Both 5-HTP and tryptophan are available as supplements and both deplete excess dopamine. (30)

Of these two supplements, we prefer tryptophan since it has fewer side effects and, unlike 5-HTP, is safe to take for the long term.

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4. Lemon Essential Oil

One of the simplest and most pleasant ways to normalize dopamine is with lemon essential oil (Citrus limon).

Inhaling lemon oil vapors offers significant anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.

One known way this works is by speeding up the turnover of dopamine in the hippocampus. (31)

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5. Noni Fruit

Noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia) comes from a small evergreen tree that grows in volcanic soils of the South Pacific.

In traditional medicine, noni is considered a natural cure-all and is used to treat colds, flu, diabetes, and high blood pressure, as well as depression and anxiety. (32)

It’s undoubtedly a nutritional powerhouse and it also happens to lower dopamine. (33)

You can buy bottled noni juice or take it in capsule form.

6. Magnolia Bark

Magnolia bark (Magnolia officinalis) is a bitter herb used in traditional Chinese medicine for digestive disorders and to treat asthma. (34)

It is a relaxant that’s good for stress relief, anxiety, and depression.

It’s considered a nootropic that protects the brain from oxidation and inflammation. (35)

This dopamine inhibitor is available in capsules, as a liquid extract or dried powder, or as a tea that goes by the name hou po tea.

7. Licorice Root

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is mostly known as a popular flavoring used in candy.

Its botanical name Glycyrrhiza literally means “sweet root.”

But it also has a long history of medicinal use by both traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic healing practices.

Licorice supplements are now used mainly to treat digestive disorders and ulcers.

Licorice contains many bioactive compounds including isoliquiritigenin which blocks the production of dopamine and is being studied as a possible antidote to cocaine abuse. (36)

Another compound found in licorice, glycyrrhetic acid, has the undesirable effects of decreasing testosterone and increasing the stress hormone cortisol. (37)

The US Food and Drug Administration warns that foods containing licorice should be consumed in moderation.

Licorice should not be mixed with certain medications.

Before taking this herbal remedy, we recommend checking the precautions and possible interactions with one of these online interaction checkers.

8. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

There’s evidence that an excess of dopamine can cause vitamin B6 deficiency. (38)

This makes sense when you consider that vitamin B6 is a cofactor required for the syntheses of dopamine.

So if you feel that you have too much dopamine, consider vitamin B6 supplementation.

Dopamine-Lowering Supplements to Avoid

Disturbingly, some health websites promote herbal remedies for lowering dopamine that are not safe.

Hollowroot (Corydalis cava) and moonseed (Menispermum canadense) are two that should be avoided since they are poisonous. (39, 40)

Indian devil tree (Alstonia scholaris), on the other hand, is a home remedy with a long history of use, but it is not available as an over-the-counter supplement. (41)

Related on Be Brain Fit —
Here’s a complete list of dopamine-enhancing supplements to avoid when your goal is to lower your dopamine level.

Lastly, make sure you aren’t inadvertently taking supplements known to increase dopamine.

If you are trying to lower your dopamine level, taking any of these would be like trying to stop your car with one foot on the brake and the other on the gas pedal.

Avoid any amino acid formulations that are high in the amino acid tyrosine since it’s the main building block of dopamine.

Other common supplements that increase dopamine include curcumin (a compound found in turmeric), SAM-e (taken for depression), and Ginkgo biloba (taken for memory loss).

Lower Excess Dopamine With a “Dopamine Fast”

There’s a growing, but controversial, trend emerging from Silicon Valley called “dopamine fasting.”

It appears that it may have some merit.

To combat the effects of excessive dopamine caused by overstimulation, Silicon Valley biohackers are taking time off from electronic devices, drugs, and sex, and even embracing silence for 24-hour periods. (42)

According to Dr. Cameron Sepah, the Silicon Valley psychologist who popularized dopamine fasting, short-term periods of abstaining from social media and technology can help you rebalance your life. (43)

He recommends putting yourself on a dopamine fast by avoiding technology use, drugs, and other activities that flood the brain with dopamine, according to this schedule: (44)

  • 1 to 4 hours at the end of each day
  • 1 weekend day per week
  • 1 weekend per quarter (take a short trip)
  • 1 week per year (take a vacation)

While there is little science to support that dopamine fasting actually lowers dopamine levels in the brain, there is no harm and possibly much to be gained by taking an occasional break from overstimulating substances and behaviors.

Too Much Dopamine: Take the Next Step

Dopamine is a major neurotransmitter that sparks motivation and is in charge of the brain’s pleasure-reward system.

An excess of dopamine might make you the life of the party, but it also can lead to self-destructive behaviors, including addictions of all kinds.

If symptoms point to you having a high dopamine level, take these steps:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Learn to manage stress
  • Minimize consumption of caffeine and sugar
  • Try one of the natural remedies that can reduce dopamine

If you have a problem with one or more addictive substances or behaviors, take steps to get it under control.

Lastly, if you have reason to believe you have a dopamine-related mental disorder such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or if you take any medications that alter dopamine activity, talk to your doctor before trying any natural remedies that affect dopamine levels.

Also recommended: Mind Lab Pro® is the Universal Nootropic™, a brain supplement containing 11 brain-enhancing ingredients that work together to improve mood and brain health and function.

READ NEXT: Balancing Neurotransmitters to Take Control of Your Life

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