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Dopamine and alcoholism: neurobiological basis of ethanol abuse.

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Department of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Kuopio, Niuvanniemi Hospital, FIN-70240 Kuopio, Finland.


The role of the dopamine (DA) system in brain reward mechanisms and the development of substance abuse has been well established. We review earlier animal and human studies on DA and alcoholism with some relevant issues relating to those studies. The present animal and human data suggest several alterations in the DA system in the context of alcoholism. Receptor studies imply that DA D(2) receptor density and function are lower at least among type 1 alcoholics, which suggests that they could benefit from drugs that enhance DAergic activity, such as partial DA agonists. These drugs could help to restore suboptimal levels of DAergic activity by reducing both the craving for alcohol in abstinence and the euphoria subsequent to alcohol's release of DA in the nucleus accumbens (NAC), thus providing negative reinforcement for relapse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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