About Damaged Dopamine Receptors | Precision Recovery
December 15, 2023

About Damaged Dopamine Receptors | Precision Recovery

One possible reason why people recidivate despite knowing the consequences is because they have damaged or insensitive dopamine receptors. Read on to learn more.

Why Do People Recidivate Despite Consequences?

The brain is a complex biological mechanism that acts as the central computer for both the mind and the body. And like how any computer is susceptible to change with a small change in code, so is the brain vulnerable to change with even the slightest alteration in its chemistry. Although how the changes begin depends on the choice of the individual, it will later depend on what the brain wants, needs, or lacks. It is similar to how errors in a computer’s software need new code to fix, a brain with damaged dopamine receptors or a genetic flaw will want something to replace the lack of a brain chemical or low dopamine received. This can ultimately lead to unhealthy alcohol consumption, substance abuse, and more.

Alcohol Consumption and the Brain

It is very common to hear about how some recovering alcoholics fall back into their old destructive drinking habits. While many would judge it to be the choice of the alcoholic, more often than not it may not really be their choice at that moment. In fact, lapses are said to occur because the alcoholic’s brain is not functioning optimally (e.g. damaged dopamine receptors) to stop them. This suboptimal functioning could be the result of genetic, environmental, or behavioral factors that cause alcoholics to recidivate with little to no regard to their situation. Indeed, if the conditions allow, it is even possible the impact of one factor could give rise to another.


When alcohol is taken, a healthy brain will do two things: it will create the ‘right amount’ of simulation, and it will let the body feel the consequences. Those with damaged dopamine receptors or genetic flaws in their brain chemistry may feel either more stimulation or won’t feel the adverse effects of taking alcohol, which may lead to a relapse.


It is easy to think a recovering alcoholic would go back to drinking by their own volition, but the decision is usually the final part of a bigger problem. Their choice is always impacted by negative environmental factors (stress at home), or the lack of positive ones (like engaging in hobbies), made worse by dysfunctioning dopamine receptors.


As alcoholism is a form of addiction, the long-term consumption of alcohol would have already weakened an alcoholic’s impulse control by damaging or numbing their dopamine receptors. This makes breaking a habit extremely difficult, as the impulse to drink is too strong to resist, more so when environmental factors or genetic flaws are involved.

How Damaged Dopamine Receptors Can Recover

When dopamine receptors are exposed to activities that cause a high amount of dopamine to be released, the receptors become less effective over time. As they are a type of protein that plays a part in the functioning of the brain, dopamine receptors cannot be damaged. Rather, they can become less sensitive to further dopamine release. Thus slowly reducing or putting a stop to dopamine-releasing activities will allow the receptors to slowly recover their sensitivity. While easier said than done, it is the first step toward long-term recovery from alcoholism or drug abuse.

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