Can you reset your dopamine receptors?

What are dopamine receptors?

Dopamine receptors are proteins located on the surface of brain cells. They receive chemical signals from dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in motivation, pleasure, cognition, attention, working memory, and movement control. When dopamine binds to these receptors, it activates them, triggering downstream responses in the cell.

There are five subtypes of dopamine receptors, named D1 through D5. The most numerous are the D1 and D2 subtypes. D1 receptors are linked to cognition, motivation, and emotional responses. D2 receptors help control movement and are involved in pleasure and reward-motivated behavior.

Why would someone want to reset their dopamine receptors?

There are several reasons why someone might want to reset or re-sensitize their dopamine receptors:

  • To reverse dopamine resistance or downregulation caused by drug abuse
  • To rebalance dopamine signaling disrupted by mental health conditions like depression
  • To improve motivation or concentration impaired by chronic stress
  • To restore healthy reward-motivated behavior damaged by behavioral addictions like compulsive gambling or overeating

In essence, resetting dopamine receptors aims to undo alterations caused by prolonged dopamine imbalances. This may help restore normal neurological function relating to key cognitive, behavioral, and emotional processes.

Can you actually reset dopamine receptors?

The brain has a remarkable capacity to adapt and change, even into adulthood. This ability is called neuroplasticity. Through neuroplasticity, the brain can reformat connections and signaling strengths between neurons, allowing new learning and unlearning of thought and behavior patterns.

Evidence suggests we can tap into this plasticity to reset or re-sensitize dopamine receptors altered by drug abuse, mental illness, or unhealthy behaviors. However, “resetting” doesn’t mean returning receptors to a pristine pre-exposure state. Rather, the goal is to undo the specific adaptations caused by prolonged dopamine disruption.

Animal research

Animal studies provide proof-of-concept that dopamine receptor changes are reversible. For example, a rodent study found that taking dopamine antagonists after cocaine withdrawal reversed D2 receptor downregulation in the nucleus accumbens region involved in addiction and reward motivation.

Human research

In humans, imaging studies show people with drug addictions, obesity, and gambling disorders have reduced D2 receptor binding potential indicative of downregulation. The receptor binding can increase towards normal levels again after long-term abstinence from the abused substance or addictive behaviors.

Other studies report cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) successfully restores dopamine signaling and D2 receptor binding potential in depression.

Anecdotal evidence

On forums and blogs, many people describe their experiences with apparent dopamine receptor resetting. Common strategies include taking extended breaks from addictive substances and behaviors, avoiding intense dopamine spikes and crashes, exercising, practicing mindfulness, and adopting healthier habits and lifestyles.

Such anecdotal reports need scientific verification. But they subjectively align with the notion of reversing receptor changes after discontinuing prolonged dopamine-disrupting patterns.

Potential reset strategies

Based on current neuroscience, several strategies may help reset altered dopamine receptors:

Completely abstain from the source of dopamine disruption

Animal research confirms that dopamine receptor downregulation reverses after cessation of drug administration. Similarly in humans, stopping substance abuse and addictive behaviors for extended periods (many months to years) allows receptors to regain normal signaling capacity.

Avoid extreme dopamine highs and lows

Severe dopamine fluctuations drive receptor changes. Keeping dopamine release more stable may prevent further alterations and encourage receptors to revert to equilibrium. This includes avoiding binge consumption of drugs, junk food, and addictive behaviors.

Exercise and move regularly

Animal and human studies show aerobic exercise boosts dopamine signaling and may reverse downregulation in addiction and obesity. Yoga and light resistance training may also help normalize receptors.

Get good sleep

Poor sleep decreases dopamine receptor sensitivity. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night supports healthy receptor function.

Reduce stress

Chronic stress impairs dopamine signaling. Relaxation practices like meditation, deep breathing, massage, and forest bathing can mitigate excess stress and support receptor re-sensitization.

Improve diet

A diet high in processed foods but low in protein may contribute to altered dopamine receptors. Eating more proteins, probiotics, prebiotics, polyphenols, and antioxidants can aid receptor resetting.

Consider targeted supplements

Some supplements, including ginseng, curcumin, gingko biloba, L-tyrosine, and L-theanine, have science backing their abilities to benefit dopamine receptors and signaling.

Get therapy and counseling

Cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, and counseling can help rewire addictive and compulsive behavioral patterns fueled by dysfunctional dopamine signaling.

How long does it take to reset dopamine receptors?

There is no set timeline for resetting dopamine receptors. How long it takes likely depends on:

  • The source and severity of prolonged dopamine disruption
  • How long receptors were exposed to dysfunctional dopamine signaling
  • Genetic differences in receptor density and resilience
  • The intensity of reset strategies
  • Adherence to recommended lifestyle changes

Animal studies suggest at least one month of abstinence from drugs may allow significant receptor recovery. In human drug addicts, marked improvements often take 6-24 months of sobriety. Mental illnesses like depression also require weeks to months of consistent treatment for dopamine receptors to normalize.

For less severe dopamine alterations from stress and unhealthy behaviors, milder strategies for a few weeks may sufficiently reset receptors.

Signs of successful dopamine receptor resetting

How can you tell if efforts to reset your dopamine receptors are working? Signs may include:

  • Improved motivation, concentration, and focus
  • Reduced compulsive cravings and behaviors
  • Less need for excessive stimulation seeking
  • Increased sense of fulfillment from everyday activities
  • Stabilized mood with reduced highs and lows
  • Ability to feel pleasure again from natural rewards

Functional imaging studies also show increased D2 receptor binding potential after successful reset regimens in relevant brain regions.

Risks and limitations of resetting dopamine receptors

While reversing dopamine receptor changes has proven benefits, there are some cautions:

  • Resetting is difficult and takes months. Dopamine alterations are not quickly or easily undone.
  • Receptors may not reach exactly the same state as before disruption. But significant improvements are achievable.
  • Resetting receptors without also addressing the root causes will be temporary. Lifestyle and behavior changes are key.
  • Severely reduced receptor densities due to drugs like methamphetamine may only partially recover.

Additionally, resetting dopamine receptors is not a cure-all treatment. It should form part of a comprehensive plan to manage substance abuse, behavioral addictions, and mental health disorders.


Science indicates we can reset dopamine receptors that have been altered from prolonged dopamine highs, crashes, and dysfunction. This process allows receptors to regain normal sensitivities and downstream signaling strengths.

Evidence is strongest for reversing changes caused by drugs, addictive behaviors, and mental illnesses. Effective strategies require completely avoiding the source of dopamine disruption for extended periods to allow receptors to re-adapt.

Adopting lifestyle and diet upgrades that stabilize dopamine fluctuations, reduce stress, and support plasticity mechanisms may also help normalize receptors. Though difficult, “resetting” dopamine receptors holds promise for restoring healthy motivation, cognition, mood stability, and reward responses in those suffering from conditions linked to dopamine disturbances.

Leave a Comment