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Bringing the Power of Science to Bear on Drug Abuse and Addiction

4: The brain is your body

Illustration of brain regions

Your brain controls more than the way you think. The brain controls our physical sensations and body movements. How we understand what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Our sense of balance and coordination. Memory. Feelings of pleasure and reward. The ability to make judgments. When we catch a football, dance, jog, speak, sing, laugh, whistle, smile, cry - that’s our brain receiving, processing, and sending out messages to different parts of our body.

When we feel good for whatever reason - laughing with a friend or seeing a good movie or eating our favorite ice cream - the brain’s reward system is activated. As we said before, the reward system is the part of the brain that makes you feel good. The reward system is a collection of neurons that release dopamine, a neurotransmitter. When dopamine is released by these neurons, a person feels pleasure.

Scientists have linked dopamine to most drugs of abuse - including cocaine, marijuana, heroin, alcohol, and nicotine. These drugs all activate the reward system and cause neurons to release large amounts of dopamine. Over time, drugs damage this part of the brain. As a result of this damage, things that used to make you feel good - like eating ice cream, skateboarding, or getting a hug - no longer feel as good.

This page was last updated January 2007

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NIDA. (2007, January 5). Bringing the Power of Science to Bear on Drug Abuse and Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/bringing-power-science-to-bear-drug-abuse-addiction

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