Everything You Need to Know About Serotonin and Its Relation to Addiction

How serotonin relates to addictionBoth a hormone and a neurotransmitter, serotonin is what helps regulate our mood, appetite, sleep, sexual desire, memory, learning and more. It’s a chemical that has a variety of functions in the body – and while most of the discussion surrounding addiction lies on what happens on the outside (withdrawal symptoms, effects on work and relationships, etc.), there’s a lot more going on underneath. The chemicals in our body are set to perform certain functions, and, if they become disrupted by alcohol or other substances, this can create a major imbalance in many areas of a person’s life.

In 2014, a study published by a PhD student in Psychology suggested that the serotonin levels a person has when first using a drug could actually influence that person’s susceptibility to becoming addicted to that drug. The Fix, a website that provides information on addiction recovery, sobriety and more, interviewed Ronald L. Cowan, PhD and author of another study which explore the relation between ecstasy and serotonin, and noted that if certain drugs like ecstasy are taken too often, serotonin levels can become depleted – which can bring about depression.

So, it seems there are two sides to serotonin: the levels a person already has, and the changes in levels that occur from substance abuse. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) emphasizes, drugs can cause such an influx of serotonin which depletes this neurotransmitter – and that’s why the withdrawal effects can be so significantly discomforting. Low serotonin levels are associated with poor memory, confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia and difficulty in concentration; it can take several weeks for the levels of serotonin in a person’s brain to become rebalanced, with some researchers even suggesting that serotonin levels may be permanently damaged if addiction is severe enough.

If you’re currently in recovery, it’s important to do what you can to improve your serotonin levels naturally. There are several foods that are made up of essential nutrients for your body, which can help get these levels back on track:

  • Salmon
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • Seeds
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts
  • And more

If you’re ready to take a leap towards recovery, speak with someone from Cumberland Heights today.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.