What Is a Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor?

Lee Prangnell

In psychopharmacology, a dopamine reuptake inhibitor is a class of drug that is designed to inhibit the action of the dopamine transporter. The dopamine transporter is a protein that helps end the action of dopamine, a natural chemical that increases one's mood and feelings of pleasure. By inhibiting the dopamine transporter, a dopamine reuptake inhibitor increases the body's extracellular concentrations of dopamine, which in turn increases dopaminergic neurotransmission and creates feelings of pleasure or even euphoria.

Cocaine causes feelings of pleasure due to its inhibiting action on dopamine transporters.
Cocaine causes feelings of pleasure due to its inhibiting action on dopamine transporters.

A dopamine reuptake inhibitor has a number of medical applications. For instance, the drug methylphenidate is a popular dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Methylphenidate is a psychostimulant medication that is primarily prescribed to patients who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These medications are prescribed to patients for the purpose of treating conditions such as obesity, anxiety, depression and Parkinson's disease. These drugs are often used to augment other psychopharmacological medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitions (SSRIs), particularly for the treatment of psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety.

Dopamine elevates the mood and increases feelings of pleasure.
Dopamine elevates the mood and increases feelings of pleasure.

All pharmaceutical drugs have an element of physiological toxicity. A dopamine reuptake inhibitor, although relatively safe and well tolerated, can produce side effects in patients. These side effects are classified as either psychological or physiological. Some of the psychological side effects experienced by patients include an altered state of subjective consciousness, euphoria, mood lift, improved memory, increased energy and insomnia. The physiological effects side effects include dilated pupils, nausea, jaw clenching and trembling.

Symptoms of stimulant psychosis may include paranoia.
Symptoms of stimulant psychosis may include paranoia.

These medications can produce intense feelings of pleasure, so they're often subject to substance abuse; cocaine and phencyclidine (PCP) are in this class of drugs. Cocaine is notoriously addictive, primarily because of the extreme euphoria associated with its ingestion. Likewise, PCP — also known as "angel dust" — is a psychostimulant that is commonly abused because of the feelings of pleasure that it produces.

Side effects of a dopamine reuptake inhibitor may include insomnia.
Side effects of a dopamine reuptake inhibitor may include insomnia.

If a patient of pharmaceutical medications such as methylphenidate or an addict of illicit substances such has cocaine ingests an amount of the drug that far exceeds the recommended safe dosage, then he or she could potentially suffer life-threatening consequences — which could lead to coma or death. Furthermore, if these drugs are overused by an individual, he or she could experience a condition known as stimulant pychosis. This condition is characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and disordered thinking. There have been instances in which individuals have been sectioned in a secure unit — for mental illness — because of their abuse of dopamine reuptake inhibitors.

Dopamine reuptake inhibitors are often subject to abuse because of the intense feelings of pleasure they create.
Dopamine reuptake inhibitors are often subject to abuse because of the intense feelings of pleasure they create.
Dopamine reuptake inhibitors may be prescribed for conditions like depression and anxiety.
Dopamine reuptake inhibitors may be prescribed for conditions like depression and anxiety.
Dopamine reuptake inhibitors may be used with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac, the brandname for fluoxetine hydrochloride.
Dopamine reuptake inhibitors may be used with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac, the brandname for fluoxetine hydrochloride.
Methylphenidate, also marketed as Ritalin, is a psychostimulant medication that's often prescribed for children who have attention deficit disorder (ADD).
Methylphenidate, also marketed as Ritalin, is a psychostimulant medication that's often prescribed for children who have attention deficit disorder (ADD).

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Discussion Comments

OeKc05

I have a friend who had to be taken to a mental hospital after using PCP. He began hallucinating, and he was trying to get away from what he saw. In doing so, he kept hurting himself by running into walls, and he almost walked out in front of a bus.

It was scary to watch him lose it like that. I knew that he was at fault, because he chose to abuse a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, but I still felt sorry for him. He was in a world that no one else could see, so no one could rescue him from it.

seag47

My husband takes methylphenidate for his ADHD. It is a lot like an amphetamine, but rather than speed him up, it slows him down and allows him to focus.

People who abuse this drug do so because it is a strong stimulant in people with normal dopamine function. My husband needs help in the dopamine department, so it makes him think and act more normally.

I am glad that he started taking it. His work performance has improved, and he is able to listen to me while I’m talking now. I’m not worried about him becoming addicted, since he hasn’t mentioned any feelings of pleasure.

Perdido

@lighth0se33 - I had severe social anxiety disorder, and dopamine reuptake inhibitors really helped me. My anxiety had gotten so bad that I hated going to work every day, because I would have to be around people.

You’re right. I didn’t feel as if I had taken cocaine or anything. I simply felt mellowed out. It was so nice to be able to talk to people and function normally, without shaking, sweating, and stuttering.

I eventually had to quit taking it, because it gave me heart palpitations. I have friends who have been on it for years with no issues, though.

lighth0se33

I definitely see how a dopamine reuptake inhibitor could combat depression! It seems like the danger of becoming addicted would be too great.

Maybe since people suffering from clinical depression are also suffering from a lack of dopamine, these drugs only level things out for them. If someone without depression took the same drug, it might make them feel euphoric, whereas a depressed person would merely feel normal.

It’s a good thing that these drugs are available for people with mood disorders. I’m sure they appreciate the lift in spirits.

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