How to Restore your Dopamine Receptors after Years of Adderall Use and Abuse
The following is a guest post from Nootropics University.
Dopamine is the primary pleasure neurotransmitter used by the brain to signal that an activity is good, healthy or necessary, and that it should be repeated. Dopamine is used for focus, memory, maintaining mood, thinking accurately, and having energy, both physical and mental.
With dopamine functioning as such an important neurotransmitter to the body, mind, and homeostasis of humans, it’s no wonder that many nootropics, or “Smart Drugs” would tap into this powerful neurotransmitter as a way of improving cognition.
A common type of “Smart Drug” used that does this to a significant extent, is Adderall, and while it is a legitimate prescription used for those dealing with ADHD and ADD, it is also used widely on college campuses and in high pressure jobs as a way of improving brain function.
I chose to write this article because of the growing prevalence of Adderall in these types of settings, and to not only warn about the dangers that regular use or abuse of the drug can cause, but also to give hope to those dealing with the addiction to this powerful amphetamine. Through proper amino acid supplementation, and stretches of sobriety, recovery and having full brain function again is possible.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is the primary pleasure chemical, released during natural activities, such as when you accomplish a feat (getting a promotion at work, falling in love etc. In further centuries back, it was put in place in the brain for things like bringing home a good hunt or acquiring status in the tribe) eat, drink, exercise, have sex, or go to sleep.
Things that naturally feel good are what dopamine is supposed to be used for, and when dopamine is artificially increased by a drug, and especially a powerful amphetamine like Adderall, there is going to be a downregulation (less dopamine is naturally produced) after the initial high.
With this downregulation, more and more of the drug is needed to produce the same effect, and a certain amount of the drug is constantly needed to maintain a baseline level of dopamine, as if the drug is not taken, downregulation is still present.
This is how tolerance and withdrawal occurs, more of the drug is needed to produce the same effect (since receptors are already downregulated) and whenever the drug isn’t taken, your receptors are trying to recover themselves, and less dopamine is available to the brain.
You can read more about this phenomenon here.
How Adderall affects Dopamine
Adderall affects this neurotransmitter by blocking the reuptake of dopamine. Now, while this may sound confusing, it’s more simple than you might think.
Dopamine functions in a kind of recycling system (naturally at least) in which it flows to specific parts of the brain where it is needed, and then comes right back to the receptors. When you take Adderall, the drug blocks part of the natural loop, and not only forces the receptor to work in overtime, pumping out far more than a natural amount of dopamine (it never reuptakes, so it just keeps pumping until the Adderall runs out) but it pushes almost all of it to the frontal lobes.
Now, depending on what you’re taking Adderall for, this is both good and bad. If you’re trying to study, it’s good because the normal area of the brain you use for focus and learning is now absolutely caked with dopamine, so studying is not only easier, but also fun and interesting.
While this will get the job done, after the drug wears off, your dopamine receptors are exhausted, and require a certain amount of time to recover. The more often you take the drug, and the higher dosages you take, the longer it takes to recover. The more of the drug you take, the more you’ll also need next time to maintain the same level of effects, this causes side effects as well as a dangerous spiral towards tolerance, withdrawal, and an inability to function without the drug. This is how addiction begins.
Now, for those taking it for a legitimate reason, such as ADHD, the drug makes the user calm, and if a normal dosage is taken under the supervision of a doctor, it can be a Godsend for individuals struggling to focus-a standard dosage however needs to be maintained.
Supplements that Help, Amino Acids that Literally Create Dopamine
For those on the other end of the spectrum however, those individuals who are taking the drug regularly and can’t seem to stop, there’s hope!
A few supplements have been shown to increase a brain’s natural ability to create dopamine. Dopamine is created by amino acids, and the usual route to making the neurotransmitter is Phenylalanine>>L-Tyrosine>>L-Dopa>>Dopamine, so the supplements L-Tyrosine and L-Dopa are the closest things to straight dopamine, and as such are the best supplements for recovering your brains reward centers to a natural level after Adderall use and abuse.
My pick, while this may sound strange at first, is L-tyrosine. Straight L-Dopa can only be found by prescription, and most vendors that sell it are selling Mucuna Pruriens, a plant that contains a small amount of L-dopa.
L-Tyrosine however, can be taken at high dosages, like 1000-5000 milligrams per day, even as much as 2-3 times that much with no real side effects (if you actually need it and you’re taking it throughout the day.) Do not take this on top of Adderall as it can cause some serious side effects, for off-days when you’re going through a horrible withdrawal however, L-Tyrosine, and its XR version N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, can absolutely be your best friends. While sobriety is the best medicine, Tyrosine mixed with sobriety can speed up the process of recovery.
How they Speed Up Recovery
These supplements speed up recovery to a significant degree by improving the brain’s natural ability to create dopamine. When you supplement L-Tyrosine in moderate to high doses (or any of these supplements for that matter) the brain has more materials to work with, and thus can get back to a baseline level of dopamine faster.
Some rehab centers that are on the more advanced side have even started using amino acid injection regimens to help their patients to recover faster. In these instances, a cocktail of amino acids is administered to the patient intravenously to help the brains receptors recover more quickly. This is known as NRT, or "Neurotransmitter Restoration Therapy” and in clinical studies, has been shown to significantly help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, reduce tolerance and cravings, and speed up recovery time.
How Long will it Take to Fully Recover my Dopamine Receptors?
This entirely depends on the user, how much of the drug you’ve been taking and for how long. For example, someone taking 60-90 milligrams of Adderall per day for around a year can expect a 6-12 month withdrawal period, with the first 30 days consisting of sharp withdrawal symptoms, and the rest consisting of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS, in which withdrawal comes in waves.
If you or a loved one is dealing with Adderall addiction, don’t quit and keep pushing, recovery is possible and with the right supplements, it is now faster than ever before. For more information, checkout the sources below, and good luck!