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What Are Dopamine Antagonists?

By Jessica F. Black
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Dopamine antagonists are a class of drugs that are used to treat various disorders by restricting dopamine functions. Some disorders that dopamine antagonists are prescribed for are schizophrenia, drug addiction, migraine headaches, and other mental disorders. Prescriptions are written based on individual cases and may not be an effective method of treatment for all patients. Extensive examinations are usually required to locate the problem and diagnose a disorder that may require dopamine antagonists. This drug has been associated with many serious side effects, and patients should disclose their medical history to the prescribing physician to ensure that they are able to take this drug.

Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that is able to transport messages between the brain and nerve cells. These neurons become stimulated and release dopamine, which can create a sense of euphoria. Positive or enjoyable activities such as eating, sex, or drug use are directly related to releasing dopamine. This neurotransmitter is responsible for emotional response, physical movement, and various levels of pain and pleasure. Over stimulation that causes an increased amount of dopamine to be released, which may cause various mental and physical disorders.

The primary goal of dopamine antagonists is to preoccupy the receptors and help avoid additional stimulation. Too much dopamine may cause psychotic or addictive habits, and physicians often work to help suppress an overabundance of this chemical by prohibiting it from attaching to any receptors. Certain brain defects in schizophrenic patients can cause an excessive release of this brain chemical, which is usually why doctors attempt to use dopamine antagonists.

Although drug abuse may appear to cause a state of nirvana that often makes the addict want to continue using, the dangerous effects on the body and mind often raise serious concerns. The brain sends mixed messages by releasing extremely high levels of dopamine, and the repeated positive effects may cause the addict to crave this feeling. An abundance of health problems associated with drug abuse requires attention, and the first step is to reduce the increased amount of chemicals before attending to other afflictions. This drug should be closely monitored by a physician to ensure that patients are responding to the medication properly.

General side effects may include drowsiness, nausea, and other minor discomforts. More serious side effects have been listed for this drug, including tardive dyskinesia and parkinsonism. Tardive dyskinesia is a rare side effect that may cause involuntary body functions. Parkison's disease involves patients who have little or no dopamine, and so require dopamine agonists. Patients who experience extremely low levels of dopamine may be vulnerable to contracting Parkinson's disease.

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Discussion Comments
By sandrews — On Dec 22, 2013
It's interesting that dopamine antagonists are used to treat both schizophrenia and migraine headaches. Migraine headaches can have more than one cause and the cause of schizophrenia is still kind of up for debate. So how does a doctor know the primary cause of migraines and when to use dopamine antagonists? Is it standard to measure dopamine levels in those with migraines? Do doctors rule out all the other causes before they do more serious tests like measuring dopamine levels?
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