Everything was going fine for her. She had a great job, a solid marriage, and two wonderful kids.

Slowly she became easily annoyed by the least distractions or inconveniences. Then what seems like all of a sudden out of nowhere, her husband filed for divorce. A week later she was terminated from her seven-year career as a bank executive. And then, even worse, she came home unexpectedly to find her oldest teenage child naked in the bathtub with his six-year old sister. Her life unraveled quickly.

It started with routine surgery. The doctor prescribed a 30-day supply of pain medication for post-surgical symptom complications. A month later, she got her a refill – and the month after that – and another month. The problem was the pills were not working as well as they did three months ago. So she’s now taking two pills instead of one every four hours and washing them down with a shot of vodka. And so it goes, until she was running out of medication halfway through the month and drinking a half-liter of vodka daily. And then she realized she had a problem with drugs and alcohol.

Sound far-fetched? Not hardly. There are similar stories like this one, with similar results. Why is it that some people get so easily off track and others are able to keep a steady course? I this story she was from a family with good morals and upbringing. She had it made. Let’s look at one major human condition that affects tens of millions of Americans but manifests in different ways. It’s called the Reward Deficiency Syndrome or RDS for short.


In order to understand RDS it’s important to know about dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter substance that is in the brain. RDS involves dopamine resistance, which is a form of sensory deprivation of the brain’s reward or pleasure mechanisms RDS occurs as a consequence of a person’s inability to derive reward from everyday activities. Addiction is one manifestation of RDS. DS can be anywhere along in a range from mild to severe. RDS is a disorder of the chemistry of the brain. RDS is not always easily recognized by the affected person, those who know that person, or by health professionals.  It is estimated that RDS affects over 110 million Americans. A more comprehensive definition of RDS is available in the reference list. 

Dopamine is a foremost component of brain function and RDS.

It is also the key to feelings of well-being. For example, feelings of happiness depend on excellent brain functioning that involves dopamine. This is brought about by normal function of a specific neurological chemistry pathway that leads to the release of dopamine. Dopamine causes “pleasure” and reduces “stress”. The release of dopamine at the reward site of the brain Nucleus Accumbens (NAc) involves a complicated process of neurotransmission called the “Brain Reward Cascade” or simply BRC. 
The reward site of the brain occurs in a segment called the Nucleus Accumbens or NAc.

Dopamine released into the reward site of the NAc results in feelings of well-being and reduced stress. The ultimate release of dopamine also involves a complex multi-step process, which not only controls dopamine release, but its quantity as well. This process of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, endorphins, and GABA causing dopamine is the neurological chemistry pathway called the BRC.

The BRC plays an important role in controlling the reinforcement of natural rewards, like food and sex, as well as unnatural rewards such as drugs of abuse or gambling.

Natural rewards are related to physiological satisfaction such as hunger and reproduction. Unnatural rewards are learned from acquired pleasures such as high-risk behavior. Dopamine release is the end result of external stimulation such as alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, and sex. The dopamine release minimizes negative feelings and satisfies abnormal cravings for alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and nicotine associated with low dopamine function.

Additional extensive research has revealed the relationship between dopamine release and addictive behaviors.

Research has also shown alcoholism acts similar to opioids, cocaine, nicotine, food, and repetitive behaviors like gambling and sex addiction in dopamine balance. These described drugs and certain other behaviors produce a surge of dopamine, which initiates addictive behavior. Individuals who are genetically predisposed to addictions “crave” this dopamine release. These individuals crave dopamine because they have a reward deficiency that constantly drives them to actions to fill this deficiency.

Reward deficiency has been associated with flawed dopamine metabolism and function that creates the conditions for low dopamine. Also, other DNA combinations affect the function of the genes involved in the Brain Reward Cascade.

What’s being said here is that this is not necessarily the patient’s fault. It isn’t because she just went off. It was an easy transition from a prescription to a full-blown addiction. The message to take away from this is that there is enough evidence to conclude the genetic connection with environmental risk factors to be predisposed to addictive behaviors, caused by imbalances in neurological chemistry.


  1. Curr. Biol. 19(16): 1341–1350.
  2. Sage Encyclopedia of Abnormal Psychology
  3. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Feb; 42(3): 766–773
  4. Alcohol and Behavior. VSP Press Utrecht; The Netherlands: 1990. p. 131-149.
  5. J Reward Defic Syndr. 2015; 1(1): 6–9.
  6. Eur J Pharmacol. 2015 Apr 15;753:73-87.


Whether you manage a detox facility, PHP, inpatient center, or IOP, we hope you find the information valuable, and if you have any questions please email us at mailto:info@addictionrecovery-fl.com or call us direct at 772-288-6456.

Other people liked… Click below

Click Image below

Click Image Below


DR Bruce
Doctor Bruce Hansbrough received his chiropractic medical degree from Life University, in Marietta, Georgia. He has worked in integrative settings in Martin and Palm Beach Counties since 1993. Doctor Hansbrough is board certified with the American College of Addictionology and Compulsive Disorders (ACACD) and performed his residency at the Exodus Treatment Center and Concept House in Miami.

He has served as an integrative medicine consultant for mental health and addiction recovery centers. He is also board certified in occupational health completing his occupational health residency at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Minneapolis and is a Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Board of Occupational Health.

Doctor Hansbrough is a veteran and served as a commissioned officer from 1980 through 2002 in the United States Navy and Naval Reserve with three tours of duty in the Middle East and Persian Gulf regions. Doctor Hansbrough is also a graduate of the LEADERship™ program of Martin County and received the prestigious Chiropractor of the Month award from the nationally acclaimed Chiropractic Leadership Alliance in June 2010.
DR Bruce on BloggerDR Bruce on EmailDR Bruce on FacebookDR Bruce on GoogleDR Bruce on InstagramDR Bruce on LinkedinDR Bruce on TwitterDR Bruce on WordpressDR Bruce on Youtube

Filed under: Uncategorized