En español



Quick Links

The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction

7: Summary: addictive drugs activate the reward system via increasing dopamine neurotransmission

Addictive drugs activate the reward system

In this last image, the reward pathway is shown along with several drugs that have addictive potential. Just as heroin or morphine and cocaine activate the reward pathway in the VTA and nucleus accumbens, other drugs such as nicotine and alcohol activate this pathway as well, although sometimes indirectly (point to the globus pallidus, an area activated by alcohol that connects to the reward pathway). Although each drug has a different mechanism of action, each drug increases the activity of the reward pathway by increasing dopamine transmission. Dopamine "teaches" the brain to repeat pleasurable behaviors. Because of the way our brains are designed, and because these drugs activate this particular brain pathway for reward, they have the ability to be misused. Thus, addiction is truly a disease of the brain. As scientists learn more about this disease, they may help to find an effective treatment strategy for the recovering addict.

This page was last updated January 2007

Get this Publication

Ordering Publications

Call 1-877-643-2644 or:
NIDA Drug Pubs
Cite this article

NIDA. (2007, January 2). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/neurobiology-drug-addiction

press ctrl+c to copy
NIDA Notes: The Latest in Drug Abuse Research

Teaching Packets

Explores the consequences of drug abuse on the brain and body and introduces the topics of prevention, and treatment.

Lesson Plan and Activity Finder