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Word of the Day: Serotonin

Word of the Day: Serotonin

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Sara Bellum
March 12, 2014

Have you ever noticed all the different emotions you experience in a normal day? For example, you can feel happy in the morning when you find out you passed your bio quiz, grumpy at noon when you haven’t eaten since breakfast, and then sad when the football team loses the big Homecoming game.

Chemicals called neurotransmitters, which carry messages across the gaps between neurons in your brain, influence your changing mood. One neurotransmitter, dopamine, increases alertness and makes you feel happy when something good happens. Lots of abused drugs raise a person’s level of dopamine.

Serotonin, another neurotransmitter, affects the brain in a different way. Known as the “calming chemical,” serotonin eases tension and stress. It lifts a person’s mood, lessens anxiety and aggression, promotes sleep, and also affects appetite, memory, and perceptions.

“It’s a molecule involved in helping people cope with adversity … to keep going and try to sort everything out,” says Philip J. Cowen, a serotonin expert at Oxford University and the Medical Research Council. To quote his Manchester University colleague Bill Deakin, “It’s the ‘Don’t panic yet’ neurotransmitter.”

Serotonin also puts a brake on the excitement and sometimes recklessness that dopamine can produce. When the overall brain chemical system is working well, it seems that these chemicals interact to balance out extreme behaviors. That’s why it can lead to problems when a person takes illegal drugs that affect serotonin or dopamine.

Many different drugs affect serotonin levels in complex ways. For example, when a person uses MDMA (Ecstasy or “Molly”), serotonin increases in different parts of the brain, causing elevated mood and feelings of empathy. Some studies show that elevated serotonin from illegal drug use plays a role in the person wanting to take more of the drug, possibly leading to addiction.

For more information on how drugs affect brain chemicals, check out NIDA’s article, Impacts of Drugs on Neurotransmission.

Comments

stop doing drugs
Adolescents and Teens go through a lot of mood changes and there has to be a way for parents and teachers to gain an accelerated learning curve. As adults, parents & teachers, are the two most important people in the life of each individual child as they must learn how to make moral decisions that will factor on Saying Yes or Saying No to Drugs. Life lessons come from adults and believe me young people (12-21) really pay close attention even though many may say not after a young American reaches the age of 18. The duties and responsibilities of serving as a member of the Armed Forces or attending a College or University does weigh heavy on the heart and mind of each young individual under the age of 25 years of age. Therefore, parents and teachers, must be ready to assess the ability of each youngster on how well they choose right over wrong in terms of life endeavors. If there's ever just one word to fit the bill in the Growing Up In America is the conditions & circumstances of how our children will have to learn how to navigate between evil & good waters. By them learning discernment at school and then at home, and for sure having it reinforced by demonstrations in the behaviors of faith-based organizations and churches who are always serving as Mentors who instruct Mentees on how not to walk on the "Wild Side."

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