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The Brain & the Actions of Cocaine, Opioids, and Marijuana

12: THC binding to THC receptors in the nucleus accumbens: increased dopamine release

THC binding to THC receptors

Over the last few decades, there has been intense study to learn about the endocannabinoid system, not only because of the popularity of marijuana as a recreational drug but also because of the increased use of marijuana for medical purposes. THC is thought to act in a similar way to opioids. Again, use the nucleus accumbens as an example. The same 3 neurons are probably involved; the dopamine terminal, another terminal (on the right) containing a different neurotransmitter (GABA), and the post-synaptic cell containing dopamine receptors. Ask the students if they can tell you how THC might work. THC binds to THC receptors (magenta) on the neighboring terminal and this inhibits the GABA signal, which causes the dopamine terminal to release more dopamine.

This page was last updated November 2019

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NIDA. (2019, November 19). The Brain & the Actions of Cocaine, Opioids, and Marijuana. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/brain-actions-cocaine-opioids-marijuana

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