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The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction

4: Opioids binding to opioid receptors in the nucleus accumbens: increased dopamine release

Opiates binding to opiate receptors

This is a close-up view of a synapse in the nucleus accumbens.  Three types of neurons participate in opioids’ action; one that releases dopamine (on the left), a neighboring terminal (on the right) containing a different neurotransmitter (probably GABA for those who would like to know), and the post-synaptic cell containing dopamine receptors (in pink).  Show that opioids bind to opioid receptors (yellow) on the neighboring terminal and this sends a signal to the dopamine terminal to release more dopamine. [In case someone asks how--one theory is that opioid receptor activation decreases GABA release, which normally inhibits dopamine release--so dopamine release is increased.]

This page was last updated November 2019

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NIDA. (2019, November 19). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/neurobiology-drug-addiction

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