How to Increase Dopamine in ADHD Adults

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Navigating life with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can present unique challenges for adults. One key aspect of managing ADHD is understanding the role of neurotransmitters like dopamine in the brain. Dopamine plays a crucial role in regulating attention, focus, and motivation, and imbalances in this neurotransmitter can exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Managing ADHD in adulthood involves understanding various physiological factors, including the pivotal role of dopamine. Exploring strategies to enhance dopamine levels in adults with ADHD requires navigating the realm of neuroscience unraveling the dynamics of dopamine and its connection with ADHD.

In this article, we will discuss what dopamine is, what ADHD is, and how to safely increase dopamine in ADHD adults.

young adult woman with adhd staring at computer distrtessed

What is Dopamine?

Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. It plays a central role in numerous brain functions – influencing our mood, attention, and motor control. This chemical messenger facilitates communication between neurons in different parts of the brain, ensuring the seamless operation of diverse cognitive functions.

One of the primary functions of dopamine is its involvement in the brain’s reward system. When you experience something pleasurable, whether it’s enjoying a delicious meal, receiving a compliment, or accomplishing a goal, your brain releases dopamine. This release of dopamine creates a sense of pleasure and reinforces the behavior that led to it, motivating you to repeat those actions in the future.

In the context of ADHD, dopamine’s role in attention, motivation, and focus is of particular significance. When there’s an imbalance or dysregulation of dopamine in the brain, it can contribute to the characteristic symptoms of ADHD, such as inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Dopamine and Mental Health

Dopamine levels are crucial for mental well-being. Imbalances in dopamine levels have been associated with several psychiatric and neurological disorders. Maintaining a balance in dopamine levels is key to maintaining mental health. Achieving this balance can often involve a combination of lifestyle factors, medication, and therapeutic interventions. By addressing dopamine imbalances and promoting a healthy, stable level of this neurotransmitter, individuals can significantly improve their mental well-being and overall quality of life.

What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder often diagnosed in childhood and can persist into adulthood. It is characterized by consistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Although it is commonly diagnosed in childhood, some adults are not diagnosed until later in life – which can impact daily functions and how they respond to stressors.

Symptoms of ADHD in Adults

A wide range of symptoms can manifest in adults with ADHD. These symptoms can include deficits in emotional dysregulation and executive functions. They often include difficulty managing time, organizing tasks, maintaining relationships, and controlling impulses. Much like childhood ADHD, providers will observe and test individuals to determine if an ADHD diagnosis is warranted.

The Prevalence of ADHD in Adults

While traditionally perceived as a childhood disorder, recent studies and clinical observations underscore the prevalence of ADHD in adults. As of 2020, it is estimated that approximately 366 million adults worldwide have ADHD. This necessitates more focused research and interventions in this demographic.

adhd in adults

The Role of Dopamine in ADHD Adults

There is a relationship between ADHD and dopamine levels. Understanding this relationship and dopamine’s role in the brain’s neurotransmitters can help effectively manage ADHD. While medication can provide significant relief, a comprehensive approach that considers both biological and environmental factors can yield even more substantial benefits. By optimizing dopamine function in the brain and equipping individuals with ADHD with the necessary tools and support, it becomes possible to enhance their daily functioning and quality of life.

Dopamine Deficiency and ADHD

Research has consistently shown that individuals with ADHD display differences in dopamine function compared to those without the condition. A 2007 study utilizing positron emission tomography (PET) scans found lower dopamine receptor availability in ADHD individuals, particularly in regions associated with attention and executive functions like the prefrontal cortex. This deficiency in dopamine receptors can contribute to reduced signaling in these areas, contributing to attention deficit symptoms.

Additionally, dopamine’s role in ADHD extends to diagnostic implications. Clinicians frequently rely on the presence of attention deficits and impulsivity as key criteria for diagnosing ADHD, and these symptoms are closely associated with dopamine deficiencies. Understanding the connection between dopamine and ADHD symptoms aids in the clinical assessment and diagnosis of the disorder. Furthermore, treatment strategies for ADHD have been informed by the recognition of dopamine’s involvement. Commonly prescribed medications like stimulants (e.g., Adderall and Ritalin) work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain, restoring the balance of dopamine, and improving attention and impulse control. A 2018 study published in The Lancet Psychiatry showed the effectiveness of stimulant medications in managing ADHD symptoms. This understanding of dopamine’s role in ADHD not only enhances our comprehension of the condition’s neurobiology but also allows us to understand its diagnosis and treatment.

Methods of Increasing Dopamine in ADHD Adults

Balancing dopamine levels in the brain can potentially improve ADHD symptoms. There are ways to increase low dopamine levels chemically and naturally, but no one-size-fits-all approach exists. Some of the ways your provider might try to enhance dopamine levels may include:

  • Medications: Certain medications are used to treat ADHD and work by increasing dopamine levels. Stimulant medications like methylphenidate and amphetamines enhance dopamine signaling, which can aid in symptom management.
  • Nutrition: A well-balanced diet rich in amino acids can foster dopamine production. A diet rich in the amino acid tyrosine, found in lean proteins, can facilitate dopamine synthesis.
  • Physical Activity: Engaging in regular physical activity is known to boost dopamine levels. Activities such as aerobic exercises can be particularly beneficial.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness practices and meditation can potentially foster dopamine production, helping in reducing ADHD symptoms.

Is Increasing Dopamine Safe?

While strategies to enhance dopamine levels offer hope in managing ADHD symptoms, it raises pertinent questions regarding the safety of such interventions. There are specific questions that should be asked before undertaking any regimen that may increase dopamine levels – which is why medical supervision is recommended before trying to handle ADHD symptoms on your own.

Increasing dopamine levels should be approached cautiously, as maintaining a balanced neurotransmitter profile is essential for overall neurological health. Some factors to consider include:

  • Side Effects of Medications: Medications that increase dopamine levels can sometimes lead to side effects, including insomnia, decreased appetite, and increased blood pressure. Healthcare providers will check in regularly if prescribing these medications to ensure that the side effects are not worse than the condition.
  • Individual Responses: It is crucial to note that individual responses to dopamine-enhancing strategies vary significantly. That is why most ADHD and dopamine treatments are handled with a more personalized approach.
woman smiling in front of laptop

Launch Centers Can Help with Dopamine and ADHD

As an adult, navigating a new ADHD diagnosis can seem overwhelming. Launch Centers is your ally when considering increasing dopamine levels for ADHD management. We offer guided treatment and therapy options to help you determine which avenue to take to manage your ADHD symptoms.

If you or a loved one exhibits the symptoms of ADHD, these symptoms may be managed with a personalized approach – by increasing dopamine levels. Our skilled staff is here to help you navigate your mental health and how to approach your ADHD.

Call us today to begin the process of identifying a personalized treatment plan that sets you up for success. Launch Centers wants to help you take control of your life again.

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

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Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

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Eric Chaghouri, MD


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Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

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