Low Dopamine in ADHD

By Charlie Osborne ; Updated August 14, 2017

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, usually referred to as ADHD, affects children and adults alike. Treated by a variety of medications, ADHD produces symptoms such as inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Dopamine is a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain, and performs a variety of functions. Levels of dopamine may have a lot to do with ADHD, reports the University of Washington,

Dopamine - a Neurotransmitter

Dopamine is a crucial neurotransmitter -- a brain chemical messenger responsible for regulating a variety of processes, including the ability to feel pleasure and pain, emotional responses and physical movement. According to the University of Washington, the brain of someone with ADHD often does not produce sufficient dopamine. This deficiency affects a region of the brain called the anterior frontal cortex, and influences attention and focus -- key symptomatic areas of ADHD.


Due to the action of dopamine in the brain, a deficiency of the neurotransmitter produces a variety of adverse effects on the attention and focus of someone with ADHD. Symptoms of inattention and poor focus related to low dopamine include the inability to follow instructions, forgetfulness, a tendency to lose things and difficulty staying on task at work or at school. People with ADHD who have low dopamine levels also are prone to becoming emotionally impulsive, in childhood and often into adulthood.

Treating Low Dopamine

A class of medications known as central nervous system stimulants are often used to treat low dopamine associated with ADHD. Medications such as mixed amphetamine salts or Adderall, dextroamphetamine or Dexedrine and methylphenidate or Ritalin, are prescribed to both children and adults to increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. Medications such as amphetamines and methylphenidate are prescribed by a physician, who typically starts patients at a low dose, and then raises it as needed to control ADHD symptoms, reports the National Institute on Drug Addiction.

Time Frame

Treatment of ADHD with medication is often coupled with behavioral counseling and therapy, reports the National Institute of Mental health, although a prescription drug is the key factor in keeping dopamine levels raised. Although symptoms of ADHD sometimes improve throughout adulthood, medication often proves necessary as a long-term treatment to regulate the brain's dopamine production.


Studies continue into the possible prevention of ADHD and low dopamine production, according to NIMH. There is no "cure" for low dopamine and ADHD; however, research into possible causes of brain dysfunction leading to ADHD continues, concentrating on genetic and environmental factors. Fortunately, with proper diagnosis and treatment, someone with ADHD can minimize his symptoms and -- with the help of a physician -- help keep his brain producing enough of the vital neurotransmitter dopamine.

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