Following the first association between the dopamine D2 receptor gene polymorphism and severe alcoholism, there has been an explosion of research reports in the psychiatric and behavioral addiction literature and neurogenetics. With this increased knowledge, the field has been rife with controversy. Moreover, with the advent of Whole Genome-Wide Studies (GWAS) and Whole Exome Sequencing (WES), along with Functional Genome Convergence, the multiple-candidate gene approach still has merit and is considered by many as the most prudent approach. However, it is the combination of these two approaches that will ultimately define real, genetic allelic relationships, in terms of both risk and etiology. Since 1996, our laboratory has coined the umbrella term Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) to explain the common neurochemical and genetic mechanisms involved with both substance and non-substance, addictive behaviors.
This is a selective review of peer-reviewed papers primary listed in Pubmed and Medline.
A review of the available evidence indicates the importance of dopaminergic pathways and resting-state, functional connectivity of brain reward circuits.
Importantly, the proposal is that the real phenotype is RDS and impairments in the brain's reward cascade, either genetically or environmentally (epigenetically) induced, influence both substance and non-substance, addictive behaviors. Understanding shared common mechanisms will ultimately lead to better diagnosis, treatment and prevention of relapse. While, at this juncture, we cannot as yet state that we have “hatched the behavioral addiction egg”, we are beginning to ask the correct questions and through an intense global effort will hopefully find a way of “redeeming joy” and permitting homo sapiens live a life, free of addiction and pain.
Lucid dreams are frequently pleasant and training techniques have been developed to teach dreamers to induce them. In addition, the induction of lucid dreams has also been used as a way to ameliorate nightmares. On the other hand, lucid dreams may be associated with psychiatric conditions, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Reward Deficiency Syndrome-associated diagnoses. In the latter conditions, lucid dreams can assume an unpleasant and frequently terrifying character.
We present two cases of dramatic alleviation of terrifying lucid dreams in patients with PTSD. In the first case study, a 51-year-old, obese woman, diagnosed with PTSD and depression, had attempted suicide and experienced terrifying lucid nightmares linked to sexual/physical abuse from early childhood by family members including her alcoholic father. Her vivid “bad dreams” remained refractory in spite of 6 months of treatment with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and standard pharmaceutical agents which included prazosin, clonidie and Adderall. The second 39-year-old PTSD woman patient had also suffered from lucid nightmares.
The medication visit notes reveal changes in the frequency, intensity and nature of these dreams after the complex putative dopamine agonist KB220Z was added to the first patient’s regimen. The patient reported her first experience of an extended period of happy dreams. The second PTSD patient, who had suffered from lucid nightmares, was administered KB220Z to attenuate methadone withdrawal symptoms and incidentally reported dreams full of happiness and laughter.
These cases are discussed with reference to the known effects of KB220Z including enhanced dopamine homeostasis and functional connectivity of brain reward circuitry in rodents and humans. Their understanding awaits intensive investigation involving large-population, double-blinded studies.
The reward deficiency syndrome hypothesis posits that genes are responsible for reward dependence and related behaviors. There is evidence that both bulimia and anorexia nervosa, especially in women, have been linked to a lifetime history of substance use disorder (SUD). There are difficulties in accepting food as an addiction similar to drugs; however, increasingly neuroimaging studies favor such an assertion.
We are reporting the evidence of comorbidity of eating disorders with SUD found within these case presentations. We show 50 case reports derived from two independent treatment centers in Florida that suggest the commonality between food and drug addictions. In an attempt to provide data from this cohort, many participants did not adequately respond to our questionnaire.
We propose that dopamine agonist therapy may be of common benefit. Failure in the past may reside in too powerful D2 agonist activity leading to D2 receptor downregulation, while the new methodology may cause a reduction of “dopamine resistance” by inducing “dopamine homeostasis.” While this is not a definitive study, it does provide some additional clinical evidence that these two addictions are not mutually exclusive.
Certainly, it is our position that there is an overlap between food- and drug-seeking behavior. We propose that the studies focused on an effort to produce natural activation of dopaminergic reward circuitry as a type of common therapy may certainly be reasonable. Additional research is warranted.
Addictive-like behaviors (e.g., hoarding and shopping) may be the result of the cumulative effects of dopaminergic and other neurotransmitter genetic variants as well as elevated stress levels. We, therefore, propose that dopamine homeostasis may be the preferred goal in combating such challenging and unwanted behaviors, when simple dopaminergic activation through potent agonists may not provide any resolution.
C.J. is a 38-year-old, single, female, living with her mother. She has a history of substance use disorder as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, inattentive type. She had been stable on buprenorphine/naloxone combination and amphetamine, dextroamphetamine mixed salts for many years when unexpectedly she lost her job for oversleeping and not calling into work. KB200z (a pro-dopamine compound) was added to her regimen for complaints of low drive and motivation. After taking this nutraceutical for 4 weeks, she noticed a marked improvement in her mental status and many behaviors. She noted that her shopping and hoarding addictions had appreciably decreased. Furthermore, her lifelong history of terrifying lucid dreams was eliminated. Finally, she felt more in control; her locus of control shifted from external to more internal.
The hypothesis is that C.J.’s reported, behavioral, and psychological benefits resulted from the pro-dopamine-regulating effect of KB220Z across the brain reward system.
This effect, we surmise, could be the result of a new dopamine balance, across C.J.’s brain reward system. Dopamine homeostasis is an effect of KB220Z seen in both animal and human placebo-controlled fMRI experiments.
Many patients presenting multiple behaviors including drug and food abuse as well as other pathological repetitive unwanted activities such as gambling, self-mutilation and paraphilias may not be appropriately diagnosed. Here we present a case of a male presenting many of these seemingly diverse behaviors and finally diagnosed with reward deficiency syndrome (RDS) by his attending physician.
The use of the dopamine agonist, ropinirole after two weeks showed improvement in terms of sexual behavior but tolerance set in and was discontinued especially when an infraction occurred with the patient's insurance. In this article, we carefully explore the potential of ropinirole to downregulate dopamine receptors causing adenylate cyclase receptor supersensitivity and tolerance a feature of neurotransmitter cross-talk. Based on previous scientific evidence showing KB220Znutrigenomic amino-acid therapy (NAAT) to rapidly (post one-hour) activate dopaminergic pathways in both the pre-frontal cortex cingulate gyrus (relapse loci) and ventral tegmental area-caudate-accumbens-putamen (craving and emotion loci) the patient was prescribed NAAT.
Results and discussion
Within one week of utilization the repetitive paraphilia was eliminated. There were also a number of other positive effects such as enhanced focus that persisted even after the patient stopped using KB220Z suggesting neuroplasticity (e.g. altruistic thoughts). However, these observed profound benefits require more in-depth study, especially in a large cohort against a placebo. While this report focused on a rapid response rather than long-term benefits previously associated with NAAT, it is somewhat encouraging and longer term required follow-up and larger placebo controlled studies are warranted before any definitive conclusions could be gleaned from this case report.
Changes in the nomenclature of addictions suggest a significant shift in the conceptualization of addictions, where non-substance related behaviors can also be classified as addictions. A large amount of data provides empirical evidence that there are overlaps of different types of addictive behaviors in etiology, phenomenology, and in the underlying psychological and biological mechanisms. Our aim was to investigate the co-occurrences of a wide range of substance use and behavioral addictions.
The present epidemiological analysis was carried out as part of the Psychological and Genetic Factors of the Addictive Behaviors (PGA) Study, where data were collected from 3,003 adolescents and young adults (42.6% males; mean age 21 years). Addictions to psychoactive substances and behaviors were rigorously assessed.
Data is provided on lifetime occurrences of the assessed substance uses, their co-occurrences, the prevalence estimates of specific behavioral addictions, and co-occurrences of different substance use and potentially addictive behaviors. Associations were found between (i) smoking and problematic Internet use, exercising, eating disorders, and gambling (ii) alcohol consumption and problematic Internet use, problematic online gaming, gambling, and eating disorders, and (iii) cannabis use and problematic online gaming and gambling.
The results suggest a large overlap between the occurrence of these addictions and behaviors and underlies the importance of investigating the possible common psychological, genetic and neural pathways. These data further support concepts such as the Reward Deficiency Syndrome and the component model of addictions that propose a common phenomenological and etiological background of different addictive and related behaviors.