You may have heard about getting a dopamine rush after you make a big purchase or after you get off of a rollercoaster. Some of what you may have heard about these feel-good chemicals may not be the truth in regards to its link to addiction. By understanding what the true meaning of dopamine is, you can understand your addiction a lot better and be able to seek help.

You Cannot Be Addicted to Dopamine

It is a popular misconception that people are addicted to dopamine instead of drugs or certain activities themselves. Experiences that may make you feel good for the moment like drugs or other activities activate the brain’s reward center which releases dopamine. This makes your brain focus more on the experience you had and the reaction you had to it. It is not about being addicted to the dopamine itself but what led you to experience those feel-good chemicals. The source to the dopamine is what will make you want to experience that feeling again and again.

Dopamine is Not a Pleasure Chemical

There is another misconception that dopamine is responsible for why we feel pleasure. While dopamine does have to do with contributing to experiencing pleasure, it does not create pleasure. Chemicals that do create pleasure are serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. Dopamine links substances that make us feel good to euphoria, causing us to continue using them. This link is what causes us to develop an addiction.

Dopamine as a Motivator

While dopamine is not the cause for addiction, it plays a role in motivating you to continue trying to establish that feeling of euphoria. The reward center releases dopamine as it responds to pleasurable experiences. This does not always mean that dopamine harms bad habits in that dopamine can motivate us to eat well, create art, be intimate with your partner, etc.

Dopamine is Not the Sole Cause of Addiction

Dopamine does play a role in addiction, but it is not the only role in developing one. There are a number of reasons for addiction such as according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40-60% of addiction comes from genes. Having a history of mental illness can also contribute to addiction. It can also be your home life or giving in to peer pressure that can make you experiment with drugs. By understanding the role of dopamine, you will understand your own addiction.


Located in Georgetown, Texas, Alma Loma is a transformative living center to help those struggling in early recovery to transition out of our Psychiatric and Substance Abuse residential center. Alma Loma believes that addiction is born from an untreated mental illness in which our facility is willing to help you. Our facility offers residency, medication management education, individualized treatment, life skills education, 12-step support, and more tools to bring patients the confidence to be able to live an independent life. For more information, please call us at 866-457-3843.