Monday, March 26, 2007

The Reward Deficiency Syndrome

RDS- The Reward Deficiency Syndrome

Your brain's chemical factory produces serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, endorphins and many other "feel good" chemicals. These often work together in a domino like system, triggering each other to produce feelings of well being.

When neurotransmitter levels are abnormal or blocked from the brain's receptors, discomfort anxiety and pain are the result. This "reward deficiency" is associated with difficulty focusing, heightened anxiety, hypersensitivity and irritability.

Addicts, their offspring and those with ADHD and ADD may be born with an impairment to feeling good naturally. In 1990, a defect in the D2 (dopamine) receptor gene was found to be associated with alcoholism and ADHD. This lack of dopamine receptors interferes with the "neurochemical reward cascade" of the brain, creating Reward Deficiency Syndrome. RDS may be THE main factor in the cause of alcoholism, addiction and ADHD.

Self medicating helps those with RDS feel "normal". It helps them feel good and function with less anxiety. The medication of choice may be an illicit substance, food or an activity such as gambling, thrill seeking or sexual escapades. Risk taking behaviors as well as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, marijuana and even carbohydrates cause a release of additional dopamine in the brain and provide temporary relief.

Many people enjoy the positive effects of mood altering substances. But people with ADHD experience an even more intense and powerful payoff. And a higher vulnerability to addiction. Once addicted, abstinence alone usually doesn't work as the symptoms of RDS quickly return.

"The difficulty concentrating, remembering, tolerating noise and managing stress in recovery causes some people to feel they may be going crazy. They are not. It is the return of their ADHD symptoms intensified by the changes in the brain brought about by the use of mood altering substances."- from the book Overload by Blum and Miller

ADHD symptoms and the increase in anxiety due to the changes of recovery and not understanding what is happening increase the chance of relapse. One may require treatment for both addiction and ADHD to lead a successful life in sobriety.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children


Anonymous said...

I'm a 24yr old male, going through what is described in that post as 'recovery'. After years of drug abuse and depression I'm finally trying to lead a normal life but it's so hard to get excited by everyday activities and the world feels so new that at times it can be terrifying. Once your off drugs the lack of dopamine kicks in and you feel what can best be decribed as bored and then depressed and anxious. You just want to feel normal and the cravings come back, then you wake up one morning with a black out and think 'fuck it'. Then your back to square one and the depression of what you have done kicks in all over again. I've had it all my life, I can remember getting panick attacks as a kid, I didn't know how to describe it to my parents other than it felt 'weird'. Thinking back it was a panick attack for sure. Thoughts begin to race, your heart explodes and you feel crazy, lasts up to half an hour. How I was getting them or why at the age of 5 I don't know. My mom and Dad are addicts of sorts, chocolate, nicotene, grass, prescription drugs, food etc, my sister also had serious problems with her weight. Fuck knows why I have neuro transmitters that don't work but it's next to impossible to get myself in order. Everyday your high you feel like shit and everyday your clean you feel like your not normal. Think i might take up some sort of extreme sport to replace the high. I used to skate a lot and that was great, didn't drink or anything, then I smoked a joint and that fell apart I've ben clean long enough now (months) to know that it's about training your brain to get happy about something other than drugs. It's about re arranging your life, essentially starting from scratch.

xyzseira said...

I think these people needs the alcoholism treatment that they deserve in order to improve their way of living and have the sobriety they need to set them free from this substance.