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Recent research has illustrated a strong genetic connection between ADD/ADHD and addictions. The neurotransmitter dopamine is associated with attention and sensations of pleasure. Abnormally low density of dopamine receptors in certain areas of the brain reduces a person's ability to concentrate and experience gratification.

The gene associated with this condition, called D2R2, although present in only 10% of the general population, has been found in 70% of severe alcoholics, and significantly correlates in families with ADD/ADHD. Additionally, it has been linked repeatedly with conditions including cocaine abuse, nicotine addiction, and compulsive gambling.

It was formerly assumed that a person with ADD/ADHD suffered from low motivation. New research implicates a "reward deficiency syndrome" as the culprit. A person with ADD/ADHD and its attendant low levels of pleasure neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, will "self-medicate" by engaging in intense activities, substance abuse, or compulsive behaviors, which generate increased levels of these neurotransmitters. In turn, the individual experiences increased concentration and pleasure. If genes biologically predisposing a person to addictions are also present, a chronic, destructive condition can result.

The following substances increase dopamine levels in the brain:

nicotine | alcohol | marijuana | cocaine | caffeine | chocolate
amphetamines | carbohydrates | heroin | morphine

The following behaviors increase dopamine levels:

gambling | shopping | watching TV | surfing the Internet
thrill-seeking acts | moderate stress | pornography | playing computer
sexual acting out | aerobic exercise | games