Understanding Dopamine Deficient
Bio-Chemistry And Alternative ADD Treatment

“Some people take great pleasure in life. Everyone they meet is a potential treat. A song, a sunrise, a hot bath, an apple—many things delight them. Even when painful things happen, they seem to rebound well, without too many emotional scars or prolonged suffering.” (1) How many people like this do you know? Would you like to be one of them?

“These lucky people are loaded with the brain chemicals that transmit enjoyment, contentment, and euphoria. They’re blessed with high levels of naturally comforting substances that are many times more powerful than morphine or heroin. These inborn wonder drugs are called “endorphins,” and they are actually a complex of at least fifteen potent brain and body chemicals that all amplify pleasure and make pain tolerable. There’s a special smile that I think of as the “endorphin smile.” (1)

“We’re in a bad mood epidemic, a hundred times more likely to have significant mood problems than people born a hundred years ago. And these problems are on the rise. Adult rates of depression and anxiety have tripled since 1990, and over eighty percent of those who consult medical doctors today complain of excessive stress. Even our children are in trouble, with at least one in ten suffering from significant mood disorders. Our mood problems are increasing so fast that, by 2020, they will outrank AIDS, accidents, and violence as the primary causes of early death and disability.” (1)

The above passages were taken from The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M. A. Her book includes a Questionnaire that will help you to identify your Mood-Type and how to facilitate a sense of physical and mental well being. Much of the following information is my interpretation of just a small portion of her book as it relates to the deficiency of one of the Neurotransmitters, Dopamine. Someone who is ADD is generally deficient in endorphins and has been robbed of the natural feelings described above. They look for these feelings in alternative places such as drugs or risk taking behaviors in an attempt to simply feel normal.

What causes bio-chemical imbalances and deficiencies?

    1) You may have inherited certain genes for a particular brain balance. (The good news is that even though your particular brain wiring is inherited, perhaps making you prone to ADD, Addiction or Heart Disease, it can be modified) ; and
    2) Too much stress drains endorphins. (An endorphin boosting Amino Acid is Phenylalanine aka DLPA or DPA or LPA. It is known to relieve emotional and physical pain).

There are two primary types of depression: (See Depression Treatment)

    1) Serotonin deficiency and
    2) Dopamine deficiency.

Half of the people who are low in endorphins are also low in Serotonin, which causes worry, sleeplessness, obsessive thoughts, irritability and negative thought loops. They are often the ones looking for a chocolate treat around 3:00 P.M. each day.

The symptoms of a Serotonin deficiency are listed above and may be mitigated by taking Tryptophan, 5HTP, St. John’s Wort or possibly SAMe. I’m providing a quick list only to give you some idea of the nutritional supplements that may be able to help you. Please research or check with your health care provider before experimenting on your own.

You may wish to do a lot of reading and experimenting, as I did, or preferably you can find a good practitioner who will be capable of saving you time by taking the guess work out of it. It is very important that you find someone to oversee your therapy who knows your medical history and also understands the characteristics of the supplements. For example, if you don’t use the right quality, quantity or take the supplement at the right time (with or without food, A.M. or P.M.), you probably will not receive the desired benefit.

The second type of depression is caused by deficient Dopamine (endorphins) and is more like the blahs. I believe this type of depression is where you will find most of your ADD, Addicts and Alcoholics. Because they are generally wired to be too sensitive to life’s pain, they find it difficult to maintain enough endorphins to find a natural enjoyment or comfort in life. Even major treats provide a reduced sense of pleasure.

If they expend too many endorphins coping with life’s pain, they’ve probably found a coping mechanism such as:

    1) avoiding emotional intimacy and confrontation and or adopting a sense of humor or a tough vaneer; and or
    2) looking for comfort in chocolate or other foods, alcohol, pain killing drugs, activities or sex.
Prolonged stress uses endorphins every time you’re upset; injured, sick, scared or excited. Chronic pain sufferers have sixty to ninety percent less endorphins then others. As an example, long distance running is known for its endorphin highs caused by pushing past the pain.

If you have a Dopamine related depression, you may feel like:

  • You can’t get out of bed;
  • You have no focus or concentration;
  • You’re not as emotionally agitated as much as you just don’t feel a lot of anything;
  • It’s easier to give in to people because you don’t have the energy to react.
This ‘blahs’ depression may be a result of low thyroid hormones or low Catecholamines (Cats). Since ADD is generally caused by low Dopamine, I will address the Dopamine or Endorphin deficiency more specifically than other Neurotransmitter deficiencies.

When you have sufficient endorphins, you should feel energized, upbeat, and alert. The three Cats responsible for this type of energy and the endorphin smile mentioned above are:

    1) Dopamine, the head cat that produces the other two;
    2) Norepinephrine; and
    3) Adrenaline.

Cats are designed to enthuse you in good news and alarm you in the face of a threat in order to prime you for action. As I’ve mentioned throughout this web site, this is why ADD kids have risk taking behaviors as well as the need to cause a lot of drama at home and at school. The Adrenaline that is thereby released causes their brain to feel more normal and it becomes an addictive behavior. Cats determine whether you are introverted or extroverted. If you are reading, your cats are busy (many ADD people don’t care to read for extended periods of time). The bad news is that if something requires concentration (such as a test or when you’re overwhelmed), the Cats go to sleep.

If you are low in Cats, you will likely be drawn to stimulating substances such as coffee, chocolate, Nutra Sweet, No Doz, Mountain Dew, tobacco, alcohol, pot and risk taking experiences. An example of a few natural supplements that may help sustain attentiveness are Tyrosine, Phenylalanine and in some cases Phosphatidyl Serine and Theanine. Please research or check with your health care provider before experimenting on your own.

With regard to alternative ADD treatment, under Holistic Drug Rehab, tobacco, alcohol and pot may act as an upper for people with Cat deficiencies versus a downer.

Cocaine and major stimulants, which are required to get you going, cause huge Cat release, increasing Cats by 1400% (1400 is not a typo). This is short lived, however. The resulting problem is that the brain can’t produce enough Cats to meet the relentless demands of these drugs. Depleted, the brain now has only one alternative, more of the drug. This is the price you pay for taking a Pharmaceutical Drug such as Ritalin or Adderall not to mention illegal drugs, of course. In either case, the drug does not help you replenish your natural Cats, it simply drains your already low reserves to depletion. Your brain now craves these drugs equating them to the basis of survival.

Thirty five Percent of Americans have an altered gene that mis-programs production of the Cat, Dopamine. Blahs run in a family. This can be counterbalanced with Nutritional Therapy.

Kenneth Blum, PhD, a researcher in the field of brain chemistry and genetics discovered a genetic anomaly in dopamine programming that could cause mood and behavior problems. Blah-type depression and distraction inherited deficiencies could lead to stimulant addiction. He studied the brain chemistry of alcoholics and drug addicts and “identified a few genes that could hard wire the brain to under produce its most potent ‘feel good’ brain chemical and instead produce the ‘feel bad’ mood chemical that made his subjects vulnerable to addiction.” (1)

He found he could override these bad mood genes with supplemental nutrients (Amino Acids). Those who did not take advantage of the Amino Acid Therapy were four times more likely to relapse. In a study he succeeded in reducing depressed moods in newly recovering cocaine addicts who are the most apathetic people on earth. Low in Cats in the first place with Cocaine stripping the rest of the Cats to the bone, forty percent of the recovering addicts became so depressed that they dropped out of treatment in the first few weeks. The AWOL rate dropped to four percent from forty percent with the use of Tyrosine.

For more information concerning studies connecting PFC-Depression-Addiction Connection, find other alternative ADD treatment under Dr. Amen's website listed at ADD and Addiction.

For the integrity of this web site, I try to keep my opinions as neutral as possible although I obviously have an interest in finding a solution that works since the failures of our systems are proven in our statistics. I couldn’t resist piggy backing on Julia’s prediction with regard to a bad mood epidemic. This is my personal biased point of view concerning the American health challenges in the 21st Century.

In order to gain a better understanding of the nature of a right brained person, typical of an ADD individual, see the video on the page The Difference In Our Right and Left Brain Hemispheres.


Mood Cures by Julia Ross, M.A.