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Addiction Science: From Molecules to Managed Care

How are drugs able to affect brain chemicals?

Drugs can be imposters of brain messages - chemical structure showing the similarity between THC and Ananddamide

Often, the chemical structure of drugs is similar to brain chemicals or neurotransmitters. Similarity in structure allows them to be recognized by neurons and to alter normal brain messages. Illustrated above is THC, the active ingredient found in marijuana. It’s chemical structure is highly similar to anandamide, which is involved in a variety of functions including regulation of pain, appetite, memory, and mood.

This page was last updated July 2008