Drugs & Health Blog

Word of the Day: Dopamine

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.

Image Courtesy of Steve Ryan

Sara Bellum

Since we posted this blog 10 years ago, science has evolved about the role of dopamine. See the updated post.

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: https://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 controls things like movement and how happy you are. it's good to have a lot of dopamine because that means you're happy. being happy is a good thing.

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.

This article is really informational and teaches about dopamine and how it works.
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
This is an informative article because it gives information about dopamine. I think dopamine is very important and you shouldn't take anything to mess it up.
I think it's sad how drugs can do that to somebody. Drugs are very bad and can mess up lots of things in your body that can effect your whole life
This is a good article because it gives you examples on how dopamine can effect you and the way you live. It also talks about what happens with teens and dopamine and not just adults so it gives effects on how Cocaine can effect the dopamine levels in the brain.
Dopamine is a necessity for the human body, without it you could end up in a much worse life than you have right now. I still don’t understand why people use cocaine when the effects could be bad.
This is an informative article because it informs you about how dopamine works in the body and how taking drugs effects it badly and you should know about this because it is important for you.
This is a great article because it explains the effects dopamine has on your brain. I think it will help those who want to change and live a normal, drug free life.
Messing with your dopamine really can mess you up. I would hate losing my motivation and my happiness just to use cocaine. How do people live with themselves when they lose main emotions?
This article is very informational and teaches about dopamine and how it works.
This blog was really helpful and interesting because it teaches us all about things that we don’t even know that exist. I learned a lot from this article for example, whenever you play a game and win, you feel this joy and happiness, but what you don’t know is that what’s causing that excitement is dopamine. This blog is is very inspirational because it teaches you the ways that if you do drugs, it can effect many things in your system such as dopamine.
I think it is very interesting that something so crucial to your body can be effected so badly by taking drugs. At one point it controlled your motions and then as soon as you take drugs that level will drop and you won't be able to function the right way. I never realized that dopimine effects your emotions in a positive and negative way.
I think dopamine is very cool and very important considering it has a lot to do with your happiness
I think dopamine is really important for your body to function properly. When you use a drug such as cocaine it messes with your brains ability to transmit messages and work properly.
The analogy used in this article helped me understand it even more because of basketball. It's very important for dopamine to be working in everyone's nervous system because if not, it would be impossible to move. This article like I said earlier, really helped me understand what dopamine is and how it works.
This article is very informative on the topic of dopamine, along with what it is, how it affects the body, and how substances can interfere with the “feel good” feeling that the chemical releases.
This article teaches me about dopamine and how you get it normally. It also informs me about why people use drugs to get that happiness that drugs give you.
Dopamine seems like it must be a very important chemical in the brain. Why would someone want to mess up their brain with drugs. Being unable to feel happiness is unimaginable.
It is interesting how dopamine is the cause of joy and excitement, but also necessary for the body to function on a daily basis. I wonder if it is possible to suffer from a dopamine overdose?
Dopamine he's you react to things including common sense like if someone throws you a ball you catch it or to participate in things
I think it would be bad if your brain didn't have any dopamine because you wouldn't be able to enjoy anything. It's a good thing that the brain has dopamine so you are able to enjoy things.
I think that dopamine is something that should not be altered. If someone alters the affection of dopamine levels, then they can get really effected so peopleshould take into account what they are actually doing.
I heard of Dopamine before, but reading this article helped give me a clearer definition. The example in the beginning about the basketball game helped me relate to my own life. Things that bring my joy, like my involvement in school activities, bring me joy. If I were to lose interest in these due to drugs, I would be extremely disappointed. I love the feeling of happiness that is created by the chemical in the brain, Dopamine. In order to keep feeling this and preforming basic day-to-day, I will avoid drugs like Cocaine.
The article makes sense and informs me properly about dopamine. Dopamine is a very important chemical in the brain and it makes you feel good. I realize that I feel the effects of this when I do things that make me happy. It would be stupid to do something that would hinder your ability to feel happiness and good.
I think it’s really cool how dopamine works. It makes sense that if one person were to feel happy, that the dopamine would spread to the other people since they were happy too.
This article was very helpful. It will help those who want to change.
From reading this article I learned that dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes the user feel happy. It is in many harmull drugs like cocaine and heroine. It is very addictive. If you have too much, you can overdose on it. During an overdose, if you don’t get help, you will probably die.
Dopamine is important to us because it delivers messages to our brain. Dopamine triggers emotions such as excitement. Without dopamine our lives would be very dull.
Dopamine is cool cause being happy is cool
This article helped me understand that dopamine is used in everyday things Andy that it isn’t always bad and that it is the main reason people get high dopamine