Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor: Benefits And Drawbacks
Updated November 15, 2019
Reviewer Aaron Horn
A dopamine reuptake inhibitor (DRI) can help with certain physical and mental disorders. This type of drug works with the dopamine system in your brain--that's the system responsible for motivation, reward, and feelings of pleasure. These drugs can have marvelous benefits, but they also have a few drawbacks. While this might be concerning, the positives can outweigh the negatives, as this type of medication has helped millions of patients worldwide. In this article, we'll talk more about dopamine reuptake inhibitors, so you can understand if they might be right for you.
What Is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a chemical that functions as a neurotransmitter. That means it sends messages from nerve cell to nerve cell in your brain. Dopamine is synthesized within the brain or introduced into your system through a variety of factors, including prescription or street drugs and the foods you eat.
When something happens, whether it's inside your body or in your surrounding environment, it can trigger a response in your brain. If it's a pleasurable or satisfying experience, your brain releases dopamine, and it's carried via a dopamine transporter to dopamine receptors in your brain. When this chemical message is received, you feel pleasure or satisfaction. Afterward, dopamine reuptake transporters take up the extra dopamine to end the transmission.
Drugs, food, or activities like gambling and compulsive eating can shift the dopamine system into high gear, causing a flood of dopamine into the areas between the nerve cells. When this happens, the receptors have plenty of dopamine to pick up, which makes you feel very good, at least for a while.
Dopamine: Excitatory or Inhibitory?
Neurotransmitters may be excitatory to stimulate us or inhibitory to calm us. Dopamine is unique in that it can technically be either excitatory or inhibitory. It's main function is excitatory. When dopamine is released and received, we feel not only pleasant and fulfilled, but also stimulated.
However, dopamine is a little more complicated because it also inhibits prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone that aids in milk production for breastfeeding. It also impacts the reproductive system, the immune system, and even behavior. In its inhibitory role, dopamine restrains prolactin, regulating the amount of milk produced.
If you don't have enough dopamine, you can end up with too much prolactin. Symptoms include producing milk when you don't want to, irregular menstrual cycles, and deficiencies in estrogen or testosterone.
What Is A Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor?
When dopamine reuptake functions the way it should, proteins pump the dopamine in your brain out of the space between the neurons (the synaptic cleft) and into the neuron where the action started. However, if you don't have enough dopamine or if your dopamine system isn't functioning properly, you might feel a little bit off. A dopamine reuptake inhibitor makes dopamine stay in the synaptic cleft longer, so you feel better.
How does this work? When you take a dopamine reuptake inhibitor drug, more dopamine is available in your brain, so its message of pleasure is carried to more neurons. The feeling of excitement and pleasure spreads further in your brain, helping you to feel more alert, focused, and positive.
Benefits of Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors
If you have depression, narcolepsy, or ADHD, dopamine reuptake inhibitors can improve your condition. They can also help you overcome addictions like smoking, overeating or binge eating, or heroin addiction. Although few dopamine reuptake inhibitor drugs are in common use, many have been used effectively for these conditions.
The most commonly-used dopamine reuptake inhibitor is bupropion, which is called Wellbutrin when used as an antidepressant. Bupropion doesn't affect the serotonin in the brain at all, so many common side effects of serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be avoided. (These side effects include sexual dysfunction and weight gain). Bupropion has been shown to work as well as other antidepressants for certain people.
The dopamine theory of depression suggests that a decrease in dopamine signaling causes major depressive disorder. This decrease may occur when brain has fewer dopamine receptors, or there may be other problems in the dopamine system. Either way, the goal of treatment with dopamine reuptake inhibitors is to make full use of the dopamine that's available for signaling in the brain.
For Smoking Cessation
Bupropion has also been shown to help smokers quit smoking by decreasing withdrawal symptoms, mimicking the effects of nicotine on dopamine and noradrenaline systems and blocking the nicotine receptors.
Source: U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Brittany Perry, Released into the public domain/Wikimedia Commons via flickr.com (keep in article)
Clinical trials showed that bupropion doubled the chances of remaining smoke-free in the short-term and the long-term when compared to nicotine patches.
For Cocaine Addiction Treatment (h3)
When you take cocaine, the inhibition of dopamine reuptake causes you to feel euphoric or "high." When treating cocaine addiction, a dopamine reuptake inhibitor can decrease the feeling of euphoria caused by cocaine use.
Dopamine reuptake blockers like bupropion, nomifensine, benztropine, and mazindol can inhibit dopamine reuptake without producing euphoria. Even better, these medications can help decrease cocaine addiction without being addictive themselves. In addition, another dopamine reuptake inhibitor called vanoxerine is being investigated as possible replacement therapy for cocaine.
Modafinil, a prescription drug often used to treat narcolepsy and excessive daytime sleepiness, has been shown to affect the uptake of dopamine without affecting other neurotransmitters. The exact mechanism of modafinil is still uncertain, but it is known that the drug helps with narcolepsy by acting on the dopamine transporters. New drugs may also be developed to act in a similar and even more effective way.
Drugs for the treatment of ADHD are in development, but at this point, there is no one perfect treatment. Altropane is currently being considered for ADHD treatment, as it's both powerful and has long-lasting effects on the dopaminergic system.
Drawbacks Of Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors
Dopamine reuptake inhibitors already have many beneficial uses, and more are being developed. However, no drug is perfect. These drugs come with some serious dangers and side effects. Before you decide to take a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, talk to your doctor about these possibilities and how they might affect you.
Increased Risk of Addictions
The risk of addiction for dopamine reuptake inhibitors depends on the formulation of the drug. Some can be as addictive as the drug they're replacing. If so, they may be legal compared to street drugs, but there are few other advantages to taking them.
Increased Risk of Seizures
Dopamine reuptake inhibitors aren't commonly used for eating disorders. Bupropion may be effective for overeating, but so far, there is little confirmation for this. However, it isn't used for binging disorders at all because it tends to cause seizures in people who have that disorder.
Increased Blood Pressure
DRI's can cause an increase in blood pressure. Therefore, people who have high blood pressure need to have it checked often if they're on one of these prescription drugs. Your doctor or psychiatrist can monitor your blood pressure both when you start the drug and periodically as long as you are taking it.
You usually need a prescription to access any of the DRI's because some dopamine reuptake inhibitors are controlled substances. Furthermore, some of the dopamine reuptake inhibitors are recreational and may be illegal in certain areas. These include benocyclidine and difluoropine.
Do I Need A Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor?
If you think you this medication might help you, you need to talk to a doctor about taking a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Without a proper diagnosis and recommendation from a medical professional, there's no way to know if it's right for you.
Once you know whether your doctor recommends that you take a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, you can think about whether you're willing to take it or not. There are many things to consider, as every situation is unique, so only you can decide.
Therapy Can Help
If you want to learn more about this medication, a doctor can explain dopamine reuptake inhibitors as they pertain to you and your situation. After all, to take a dopamine reuptake inhibitor legally, you need a prescription from a doctor. You may also want to consider therapy as part of your treatment plan.
That's where BetterHelp can help. A variety of medical professionals with different degrees are ready and waiting to answer your questions or meet with you online. If you need support to deal with anything from depression to quitting smoking, the qualified therapists on this platform are here for you. Below you'll find counselor reviews written by people experiencing similar issues.
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Dopamine reuptake inhibitors are complex, so a doctor can help you understand if this medication might be right for you and your situation. While there may be side effects to consider, this medication has also helped millions of people. There are always ways to enjoy a more fulfilling life, no matter what you're experiencing-all you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.