Serotonin: the hormone of happiness and an effective antidepressant

Serotonin: the hormone of happiness and an effective antidepressant

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In today's article, we are going to talk about serotonin, a neurotransmitter known to be an aphrodisiac. In fact, serotonin is known as the pleasure hormone.


  • 1 What is chemically speaking serotonin?
  • 2 Serotonin: Functions it performs
  • 3 Serotonin syndrome
  • 4 Methamphetamine and serotonin release

What is serotonin chemically speaking?

The serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is a neurotransmitter that is produced from the chemical conversion of tryptophan with a protein component and tryptophan hydroxylase, which is a chemical reactor.

The neuromodulator that allows to carry out this chemical process is related to many psychiatric disorders, but the neurotransmitter itself, which has a much more direct relationship with pleasure and good humor.

It should be noted that, although it is a neurotransmitter, serotonin is much easier to find in the gastrointestinal tract and blood platelets, in addition to the central nervous system. Serotonin has also been found in plants.

Although its effects remain somewhat unknown, the truth is that it is invariably associated with everything that has to do with good humor, pleasure and happiness. However, there are some additional functions, we will talk about in the next section.

Serotonin: Functions It Performs

The serotonin functions They are somewhat difficult to explain and isolate, because, as you well know, evolution is wise and, when you find something that works, you reuse it in several different ways to get the most out of it.

That is why serotonin, as far as it is known today, has a lot of functions, among which the following stand out:

Regulates appetite

First, It is an appetite regulator, being the molecule that allows the body to have the feeling of satiety that stops eating. In addition, it allows balance sexual desire, temperature, and various cognitive functions.

Relieves anxiety and anxiety

Secondly, when it acts together with dopamine and norepinephrine, it serves to regulate everything that has to do with anxiety, fear, aggressiveness and anxiety, as well as some eating problems.

Fight sadness and depression

There are many emotional health states that are directly related to the lack of serotonin, such as depression or irritability.

The most concrete evidence of the connection between serotonin and depression is that low concentrations of serotonin metabolites in brain fluid tissues such as cerebrospinal fluid is typical of depressed people.

The pharmaceutical companies are very clear at this point that depression arises as a result of a serotonin deficiency, that's why specific drugs have been created such as Prozac (fluoxetine), which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Its function is to increase the amount of serotonin in the neuronal synapses by blocking the reuptake of the presynaptic cell serotonin. Antidepressants are one of the most prescribed medications, despite the serious side effects they can cause.

If the depression is mild, it can sometimes be resolved without specific medications. The most effective way to naturally raise serotonin levels is with exercise.. Studies have shown that serotonin levels increase with increasing activity, and serotonin production remains high even several days after activity. This is the safest way to increase serotonin levels, apart from the many other benefits that exercise gives us on a regular basis.

Serotonin levels can also be controlled through diet. A diet deficient in omega-3 fatty acids can lower brain serotonin levels and cause depression. Complex carbohydrates raise the level of tryptophan in the brain exerting a calming effect. Vitamin C is also important for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.

Reduce the risk of osteoporosis

And lastly, serves to intervene in everything that has to do with bone density, which may seem unrelated to the above. And, it is true, it has little relationship. However, it has been shown that patients who take medication to block serotonin suffer more often from diseases such as osteoporosis.

Serotonergic syndrome

Serotonin syndrome refers to the set of symptoms suffered when you have high serotonin. This syndrome, in general, It is usually caused by taking some medications or drugs.

In the latter sense, drugs such as LSD, ecstasy, amphetamine or methamphetamine are well known, although also the extracts of some plants such as ginseng or St. John's wort.

Serotoninergic syndrome, although it can become serious, does not generally involve major problems. Most commonly it causes feeling of restlessness, some agitation, confusion, disorientation or anxiety.

On the physical side, you can have some fever, sweating, muscle stiffness or dilation of the pupils. In some cases you may have complications, which can lead to stiffness, hypertemia or even coma.

These latter complications are usually frequent in the case of overdose of some drugs, such as cocaine or MDMA.

Methamphetamine and Serotonin Release

It is important to highlight methamphetamine, because its use implies a huge consumption of serotonin. To put it in a way that can be clearly understood, imagine that you have “serotonin deposits”.

Your body, depending on what situations (having sex or when you laugh, for example), is releasing a little of that serotonin, causing these deposits to empty slowly. Then, those deposits are filled, always having a balance.

On the other hand, when consuming methamphetamine, these deposits suddenly empty, causing the serotonin to spread through your body, making you enjoy, but at the same time, leaving them 100% empty, so it takes much longer to fill.

That is why, in the first place, you can feel discouraged after having passed the effect of methamphetamine and, in addition, you need to space your consumption, because the drug it doesn't give the same pleasure until those deposits have been filled again.

As you can see, the serotonin It has many reasons to be considered the hormone of pleasure and humor, and it is no coincidence, therefore, that many researchers are delving into it to try to induce states of pleasure and happiness to patients.


Artigas., F. (1997). The serotonin transporter as therapeutic target. Department of Neurochemistry. Biomedical Research Institute of Barcelona. p. 42-44.

Bradford, H.F. (1988). Fundamentals of neurochemistry. Barcelona: Labor.

Bustamante, E. (2007). The nervous system: from neurons to the human brain. Universidad Antioquia; p. 53.

Department of biopsychology. (2004). Neurotransmitters University of Argentina John F Kennedy. Research and Teaching Institute of Neuropsychology; pp. 6-7.

The biology guide. "Synthesis of Serotonin". Retrieved on March 22, 2016.

Mendoza, N. (2008). Medical Pharmacology Pan American Medical Ed. p. 271

Rapin, J. (2004). The guide of new stimulants. Editorial Paidotribo; p. 32

Risueño, A. (2006). Neuropsychology, Brain, Psyche and Cognition. (in Spanish.). Erre Eme

Velasco, A. (1988). Compendium of psychoneuropharmacology. Díaz de Santos editions; p. 22

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