Neurotransmitters (NT's) are "chemical messengers"
produced by the body. They participate in electro-chemical communication
from one nerve cell to another or one nerve cell to various organs in
the body (such as nerve communication with muscle).
How do Neurotransmitters Work?
NT's allow electro-chemical communication between nerve cells.
Nerve cells (called "neurons") do not actually touch each other.
Instead they are in close proximity with a "gap" (synapse) between each
The electrical signal is relayed from one neuron to the next by
neurotransmitters. NT's released at the end of one nerve cell float
across the synapse where they bind to receptors on the next neuron in
sequence, triggering an electrical impulse.
Watch this brief video courtesy of
the Nation Institutes of Health to see exactly how this works:
How NeuroTransmission Works
Notice how a small
amount of neurotransmitters are degraded by enzymes while they are "free
floating" in the synapse. The remainder are taken back up by the
presynaptic neuron and "repacked into vesicles" where they are safe
from further degradation.
Here's how this neurotransmitter
release looks as it conducts electricity from one nerve cell to the
Electrical Impulse Flowing from One Neuron to the Next
How do Re-Uptake Inhibitor Drugs --- SSRI's and Others --- Work?
Drugs that affect
neurotransmitters do nothing to increase the actual
amount of NT produced by the body. Instead, they block re-uptake so that
neurotransmitters remain longer in the "gap" between neurons. Although
the short-term effect of this is to make the body believe it has more
NT, the long term effect is to further deplete neurotransmitter levels.
This is because the NT's are now forced to stay in the synaptic space
where they are vulnerable to enzyme degradation.
Here are two interesting quick videos that illustrate this.
The first video is again from a US Government drug education site for
children. This quick video shows the effect of cocaine on the
Cocaine works in the brain by blocking the re-uptake of dopamine.
Now take a look at the drug
company's webpage showing how Prozac works. This video used to be "live"
on the Prozac site but is now only available in historical archives.
The "mechanism of action" of Prozac, a selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitor (SSRI), is exactly the same as cocaine! The only
difference is that cocaine effects the neurotransmitter dopamine and
Prozac effects the neurotransmitter serotonin.
ALL "HEAD MEDS" which block re-uptake of neurotransmitters will, in the
longer term, further deplete neurotransmitters. THEY DO NOT help the
body make more NT's. Instead they cause NT's to remain longer in the
synapse where the body naturally breaks them down with enzymes including
MAO (Monoamine oxidase)
which breaks down serotonin, dopamine,
epinephrine, and norepinephrine,
and COMT (Catechol-O-methyl transferase)
which breaks down dopamine, epinephrine,
WHY "Head Meds" Often Stop Working
Many NT-effecting "head meds" stop working after a time. This is because
they cause depletion of neurotransmitters. The dose of a drug may often
need to be increased OR a second drug added to achieve more effect. This
will just deplete neurotransmitters even faster.
How "Habituation" Takes Place
Habituation occurs when a NT-re-uptake blocking drug causes further
depletion of a neurotransmitter. When a person tries to decrease or
eliminate the drug, they feel even worse than before starting it. This
is because the drug has further depleted NT levels.
The "Real" Way to Restore Normal Neurotransmitter Levels
Giving the body more of the "building blocks" (precursors) of
neurotransmitters will encourage increased production of NT's.
Without drugs, this is a strategy to correct neurotransmitter imbalances
Why You MUST Use Natural NT Repletion if You Take a "Head Med"
Correcting NT balance without drugs is the safest corrective method of
restoring NT balance. But if you currently take a neurotransmitter
effecting drug, you MUST take natural NT precursors. Remember, anyone
who feels better from a head med has a deficiency of an NT. The drugs
further deplete whatever neurotransmitter they block. Using NT
precursors will help make up for the increased destruction of NT's
caused by the drugs.
With total "repletion" of NT's (under physician guidance), many people
will eventually no longer need to take medication of any kind to
maintain normal neurotransmitter balance. ###