A google search on dopamine on a tangent from a Biochem presentation I am giving (and because the brain is incredibly intriguing) led me to a online message board where someone mentioned similar, more short-term concerns.
I had a first meeting with a PhD psychologist through my school today, however she referred me to someone with more medical training when I asked about chronic, synthetically induced dopamine elevation.
I could trudge through the countless papers in the journal databases, but I can't refine my search properly; everything is about rats (obviously due to ethical concerns) and extremely specific scenarios. Additionally, it's finals week and I don't have the time or glucose to spend on it. So I defer to a fairly sizable think-tank.
To the point (sorry I'm long-winded): I guess in some way or another for many years I have artificially--virtually, digitally, and chemically--induced prolonged, heightened concentrations of dopamine in my brain. From about age 6 or 7 I learned the easy reward of videogames, a year or two later ordering "adult programming" on the cable box.
Obviously I wasn't an addict at that point, but due to many circumstances as I hit high school I learned to cope through videogames, porn (not obsessively, but routinely), caffeine, and marijuana soon after.
I have smoked marijuana pretty much every day for eight years, played a lot of videogames (varying widely and periodically between 0 and maybe 80 hrs on a given week), easily average an energy drink and 28 oz of soda per day over the past several years, watch internet porn about 2-4 times/week when I am not in a relationship, have smoked cigarettes for six years, had a pretty intense 8-month love affair with cocaine several years back, and really do enjoy any stimulant.
Additionally, to compound my concerns, I recently was diagnosed with ADD, and prescribed methylphenidate, which which is a dopamine/norephrine reuptake inhibitor.
Basically, regardless of any other medical consequences, I would really like to know the long-term prognosis for consistently (artificially) increasing my dopamine levels by any means available.
Obviously, any time you externally stimulate a biological pathway regularly, over time the organism will down-regulate its natural, baseline operation. I can see the effects manifested; lack of motivation, being underwhelmed by my own successes, introversion, etc. and have realized it's about damn time to do something about it.
While I would be interested in the exact mode in which my sort-term reward circuitry has been effected--have I just fried my dopamine receptors? did they degrade and my body decided I have enough already? are they just degrading faster than they can be produced? do they degrade at all...?-- I am asking about my brain's ability to make a complete recovery.
One thing I am unequivocally NOT asking for is any kind of psychoanalysis or suggestions to quit my addictive behavior (they will be redundant). I guess I am open to very basic, general suggestions and exercises as far as opening up to strangers and acquiring interests that don't inherently increase dopamine levels.
I honestly think a sizable minority of Americans and populations of other industrialized societies are in a similar situation, and this is therefore a pertinent issue not just for myself but for our time.
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