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Br J Pharmacol. 2008 May;154(2):261-74. doi: 10.1038/bjp.2008.51. Epub 2008 Mar 3.

The neurocircuitry of addiction: an overview.

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Department of Neurosciences, Medical Universiy of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


Drug addiction presents as a chronic relapsing disorder characterized by persistent drug-seeking and drug-taking behaviours. Given the significant detrimental effects of this disease both socially and economically, a considerable amount of research has been dedicated to understanding a number of issues in addiction, including behavioural and neuropharmacological factors that contribute to the development, loss of control and persistence of compulsive addictive behaviours. In this review, we will give a broad overview of various theories of addiction, animal models of addiction and relapse, drugs of abuse, and the neurobiology of drug dependence and relapse. Although drugs of abuse possess diverse neuropharmacological profiles, activation of the mesocorticolimbic system, particularly the ventral tegmental area, nucleus accumbens, amygdala and prefrontal cortex via dopaminergic and glutamatergic pathways, constitutes a common pathway by which various drugs of abuse mediate their acute reinforcing effects. However, long-term neuroadaptations in this circuitry likely underlie the transition to drug dependence and cycles of relapse. As further elucidated in more comprehensive reviews of various subtopics on addiction in later sections of this special issue, it is anticipated that continued basic neuroscience research will aid in the development of effective therapeutic interventions for the long-term treatment of drug-dependent individuals.

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