About RDS

Reward Deficiency Syndrome

Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)


Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) is brain disorder characterized by a clinically significant deficiency of the essential neurotransmitter--Dopamine in the brain's Reward Centre, specifically the midbrain and prefrontal cortex. It is primarily acquired genetically but can also result from prolonged stress.


Why is dopamine so essential?


Dopamine mediates how we experience pleasure, reward, joy and contentment. Dopamine ascribes "salience" to behaviours directly connected to our species centred survival drive, e.g., eating, hydration and copulation, to name a few.


Recent research shows that perhaps as many as 30% of the US population have a genetically acquired “dopamine deficiency” --and thus, are at increased “risk” for developing addictive disease, or other debilitating brain conditions including: depression, anxiety disorder, ADHD, stress related disorders. sexual compulsions, pathological gambling, hedonic overeating, obesity, and more.


How do you know if you have RDS?


If you've inherited a number of gene variations for dopamine deficiency--and are exposed to a substance or engaged in a behaviour that elevates your dopamine level, particularly during a time of stress or sadness, you will feel a lot better—at least for a little while. You may even conclude that you had found the solution to stress, boredom, bad feelings, bad days, and difficult people.


Of course, the relief is only temporary, but learning how to change your mood artificially--if just for a little while, is a tell-tale sign of RDS. Self-medication with substances or behaviours is a big and very important step towards addictive problems. The persistent use of drugs and/or alcohol may also create reward deficits in the brain.


All drugs of abuse artificially spike the brain’s dopamine level which results in chemically induced "high" that far exceeds what one could attain naturally. But what goes up--must come down. Unlike natural rewards, after a drug or alcohol induced high, dopamine levels become deficit. So, the more someone uses a mood-altering substance or engages in an addictive behaviour to feel better, the worse they actually feel-- which is the neurobiological result. 


A deficit in dopamine is no small thing. It creates "Anhedonia", or the inability to feel happy, contented and appreciate natural rewards and beauty. For many, abstinence alone may not be enough, depending on their circumstances-- such as stress, poor social support, and numerous other social and environmental variants. As a result, relapse is more common than not. 


RDS is an important advance in how we conceptualize and treat Substance Use Disorders, Depression, Anxiety, Stress disorders, Problems with Attention and Focus, Overeating, Obesity, Gaming to name a few. RDS has also opened the door for new and novel treatments by reframing the question much more broadly. Simply stated: What do all the disorders have in common? The answer is Dopamine Deficits in critical areas of the brain.


RDS has illuminated numerous new and novel treatment approaches such as precision brain gene variation matched neuronutrient pro-dopamine regulator therapy (restoreGen®). Many peer reviewed clinical trials over the past decade have produced statistically significant reduction of symptoms associated with RDS. There is emerging evidence that over time, a permanent stabilization of dopamine reward can be attained. The genetic profile of the individual, which until now, has been unattainable for the general population, is paramount to understanding who will benefit from specific pharmacological treatment, and potentially achieve Dopamine Reward Stability. 


This is where the patented Genetic Addiction Risk Score (GARS®) test will have a major impact. Backed by nearly 40 years of research, development, the GARS® test (a simple cheek cell swab) helps people understand their specific genetic profile and risk for RDS.


Do Not Misunderstand the word "ADDICTION" in the GARS® name. All the disorders under the RDS umbrella share common aetiology (cause) and psychopathology (biological abnormalities). (www.geneushealth)



Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse – agrees and supports RDS (reward deficiency syndrome)


“Behaviours such as eating, copulating, defending oneself or taking addictive drugs begin with a motivation to initiate the behaviour. Both this motivational drive and the behaviours that follow are influenced by past and present experience with the reinforcing stimuli (such as drugs or energy-rich foods) that increase the likelihood and/or strength of the behavioural response (such as drug taking or overeating). At a cellular and circuit level, motivational drive is dependent on the concentration of extrasynaptic dopamine present in specific brain areas such as the striatum. Cues that predict a reinforcing stimulus also modulate extrasynaptic dopamine concentrations, energizing motivation. Repeated administration of the reinforcer (drugs, energy-rich foods) generates conditioned associations between the reinforcer and the predicting cues, which is accompanied by down-regulated dopaminergic response to other incentives and downregulated capacity for top-down self-regulation, facilitating the emergence of impulsive and compulsive responses to food or drug cues. Thus, dopamine contributes to addiction and obesity through its differentiated roles in reinforcement, motivation and self-regulation, referred to here as the 'dopamine motive system', [AKA also RDS] which, if compromised, can result in increased, habitual and inflexible responding. Thus, interventions to re-balance the dopamine motive system might have therapeutic potential for obesity and addiction.” 

Volkow, N.D., Wise, R.A., & Baler, R. (2017). The dopamine motive system: implications for drug and food addiction. Nat Rev Neurosci, Nov 16;18(12):741-752.