Drugs & Health Blog

Word of the Day: Dopamine

Image Courtesy of Steve Ryan
Sara Bellum

Imagine this: You're playing basketball; it's the last quarter. In fact, you only have 30 seconds to make the winning shot. You shoot, it soars through the air, you hear the buzzer go off...and then you see the swoosh.

You just won the game for your team. How do you feel?

The answer to that question involves a chemical in your brain, called dopamine—our word of the day. Dopamine delivers important messages between neurons (brain cells). That's why it's called a "neurotransmitter." Dopamine is an especially important neurotransmitter, because it helps to control movement, motivation, emotions, and sensations like pleasure.

Back to the basketball game. After you made that winning basket, dopamine sent "messages" to your neurons to help you feel happy, pumped, and overjoyed that you made that winning shot. Dopamine would also be working away in your teammates' brains as they ran out onto the court to celebrate, and in the brains of the cheering fans jumping up and down in the stands.

But it doesn't stop there. Dopamine is at work all the time, delivering messages to neurons and motivating you to participate in the more basic activities of life, like eating foods you like or spending time with family and friends. How dopamine works in the brain is especially important in teens since teens' brains are still developing. When dopamine levels are affected by drugs like cocaine, it can affect the brain's "wiring," causing important messages to get lost in translation. Messing with dopamine can affect your motivation to go to prom or your ability to make that winning basketball shot—even your ability to feel happiness. And that's why drugs might cost you more than just the basketball game.

For more in-depth resources and other brainy words, check out NIDA's interactive glossary that fuels my "Words of the Day."

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


that's depressing, not being able to feel happy...

right i agree with u,if people are felling sad or depressed everyday they schould talk to someone, its hard for me to talk to smeone because i get worried that they might think im crazy

Hi Marie, if you ever want to talk with someone, you might try one of these resources: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/lifeline-where-to-get-help-when-you... They're confidential services that can help you connect with health services or just talk through what you're dealing with.

dopamine is pretty dope.....

this blog was really helpful to teach me about dopamine. i think it is sad how this could happen to someone. and i would never want it to happen to me. your blog really attracted me when you compared it to a real life situation like playing basketball. i also suggest people to read your blog.

Very helpful
These is wonderful, thanks allots, at list these will help those who want to change
This is a really good article with a good analogy
i have aids
ok im sorry

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