MS Addiction: got dope?

Amantadine, papaverine, meclizine, hydroxyzine, interferon, tadalafil, ciprofloxacin, desmopressin, venlafaxine, methenamine, vardenafil, nitrofurantoin, prazosin, oxybutynin, paroxetine, alprostadil, fluoxetine, trospium chloride, carbamazepine, diazepam, sildenafil, bupropion and sertraline: these are just some of over seventy-five drugs many of us have been prescribed for our Multiple Sclerosis.

My drug of choice – dopamine – and I regularly self-medicate.

I’m not a doctor or a nurse, nor do I have a medical background. I am however a wee bit impatient and am tired of waiting for the cure. So for the time being I have taken my MS into my own hands.

About 7 years ago I could see the writing on the wall. It was clear: if I didn’t start moving I would stop moving – so I took up exercise. Within a few weeks my fatigue lessened and the tingles in my spine disappeared. Within a few more weeks I had energy and was ready to take on more exercise. Eventually I stopped dropping stuff and walked into things far less often. I felt a cognitive clarity I hadn’t felt in years. I was no longer depressed and was able step outside and join the world.

I’ve thought a lot about why my MS has taken a turn for the better. My doctor calls it remission. But since I would rather lead than follow my disease, and I like to believe there IS something I have done to help myself. I like to think it’s in part the dope – the dopamine that is released every time I exercise.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with emotions, movement, and the brain’s pleasure and reward system.

It has been suggested that many of us with MS are dopamine deficient (People with multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, cocaine or alcohol abuse often have severe dopamine deficiencies1). Interestingly, about half of MS patients find partial relief of fatigue with amantadine, a drug that promotes release of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, within the brain2.

I read that in the mid-1980s high doses of L-DOPA (dopamine’s natural precursor, laevodihydroxyphenylalanine) were used to treat multiple sclerosis in a clinical trial in Linköping, Sweden3. 300 MS patients were treated with L-DOPA and tetracyclic antidepressants. After a few months, three quarters of the patients experienced substantial sensory, motor, and autonomic symptom improvements, some seeing the return of functions that had been lost for years.

I can’t say for certain that dopamine released through exercise is what is making me better. At the same time medical science can’t say that it isn’t. What we both can likely agree on is that exercise it isn’t making me worse.

So if you can, get exercising to get doped!


1. Birch Creek Medical Network. A network of innovative medical providers.

2. New Model to Explain the Role of Dopamine in Immune Regulation Described

3. Berne-Fromell, K., Fromell, H., Lundkvist, S., and Lundkvist, P. (1987). Is multiple sclerosis the equivalent of Parkinson’s disease for noradrenaline? Medical Hypotheses, 23, 409-415.


9 Comments on “MS Addiction: got dope?”

  1. Carol says:

    Thank you Susan,

    For the explanation, the links and setting an example. I thinks this really helps explain my situation.

    Carol Pal

  2. sheryl says:

    I agree with you, I exercise and eat way better than I ever have, I have also changed my way of thinking, any tool available to me, I try to take something away from it, this too is a tool. Having MS for 6 years, I have experimented with exercise, when I exercise, even a little, I feel better, not 100% better, but way better than when I dont, its as simple as the tread mill or the pool, you dont have to swim, just walk. Replacing quick sugar fixes with protein also helps with energy levels. Good luck and never give up, there is always hope!!!

  3. Portia says:

    I like this theory! It rings true for me. I’m training for my 2nd marathon and was diagnosed with MS about 9 years ago. I’m running 45-50 miles a week and all my symptoms are gone.

  4. Clare says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. There is a lot of truth in what you are saying. For me, exercise really is the key to better health with the MS both physically and mentally. Traveling to Europe threw me off my routine and I lost all the fitness I had gained. Now as I slowly climb out of the hole I fell in, I can see that exercise and a plant based diet are what will keep me from falling back down. I have been slowly adding 3 days of swimming back into my week. Next week I start back with paddling 3 days a week and swimming 4 to 5 days a week. At this point it is hard and I really have to push myself but I just have to slog it out until I become fit again and then the pleasure of exercise will return. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. JP says:

    Wow, what a thread! I found it because, while I am not fully diagnosed with MS, my MS specialist says I am “atypical” and is treating my many symptoms with pramiprazole…he just doubled my dosage and my constant tremors have almost subsided, my gait improved, leg weakness improved…it is so dramatic, I researched the drug to find it impacts levels of dopamine…i continued the research to understand dopamine and discovered this thread…..fascinating theory, and as in my case…spot on. All my symptoms dramatically improved within days.

    To further the discussion, my siblings, parents, and grandparents all have or had substance abuse issues….two members committed suicide….I do not drink alcohol or use any street drugs…but after reading your hypothesis, experiencing the dramatic impact of dopamine regulation, I believe there is substantial validity to your claim.

    I am a bit nervous to know I am manipulating brain chemistry, but when you point out that exercise provides similar results it motivates me to return to my exercise program.

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your thoughts…it is very significant to me…and just may serve as a solution to my deteriorating health and quality of life…..


    • msathlete says:


      Very sorry to hear about your family members. No doubt it is painful for everyone who knew and loved them.

      It’s great to hear you are reasearching, researching, researching. I have found comfort in learning as much as I can about what is going on with my body. I hope you do too.

      Please keep in touch and let me know how you make out with manipulating your brain chemistry naturally – through exercise.


  6. I just stumbled upon your blog through MSrunner. Very interesting post. I was diagnosed last spring with MS and have been thrilled that I have been able to stay running and active so far. I hope to continue to run marathons and do believe that exercise definitely helps me feel better physically and emotionally. Glad to hear that others believe exercise helps.

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