Nearly all drugs of abuse act in a similar way in the brain’s reward system (e.g., areas that respond to stimuli such as food and drink and drugs). The drugs stimulate brain cells to release dopamine. (Research Report, Marijuana Abuse.National Institute on Drug Abuse, US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. NCADI NIDA)

Dopamine is produced in the brain stem and is pumped to other brain regions. It generates motivation to win designated rewards. If the expected reward is delayed, dopamine levels increase. High levels of dopamine are associated with anxiety, fear, intense motivation, and goal-directed behaviors. (Fisher, Helen.Why We Love. p 160-165. NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2004.)

Study: Much of what is known about rewards centers around the role of dopamine, produced by cells located in the ventral tegmental area of the brain stem (axons reach the prefrontal cortex and release dopamine). This chemical is a critical factor in the reward process (although there are rewarding conditions that do not depend on dopamine). (LeDoux, Joseph. Synaptic Self. p 188-189, 245-247. NY: Penguin Books, 2002.)

Two studies have linked ADHD with a deficiency in dopamine in the brain. This may be one reason for higher risk for substance abuse in people with ADHD as they attempt to self-medicate their brains. (Amen, Daniel, MDThe Brain in the News, Amen Clinic Newsletter. August, 2007.)

Dopamine, the feel-good chemical, may not be the reward in and of itself. Rather, it may produce a “go” signal that produces an action, which becomes the reward. (Zull, James, E., PhD. The Art of Changing the Brain. p 60-61. Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC, 2002.)

Dopamine helps to alert the mind that something important is about to happen. It stimulates pleasurable feelings. This helps to explain the long-lasting hold that addictive behaviors can have. (Zickler, Patrick. Addictive Drugs and Stress. p 1, 6-7. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 18, No 5, Dec 2003.)

Elevated levels of dopamine in the brain can result in a variety of characteristics including persistence, unwavering motivation, ecstasy, and an increase in testosterone levels that can trigger sexual desire. (Fisher, Helen, PhD. Why We Love. p 52-60, 82-83. NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2004.)

All addictive drugs trigger the brain into producing a normal level of dopamine. (Bragdon, Allen D., and David Gamon, PhD. Brains that Work a Little Bit Differently. p 30-31. NY: Barnes and Noble Books, 2000.)

Studies of biological basis of desire to take drugs: fluctuations in dopamine (brain chemical) levels in the nucleus accumbens. This can occur by drugs itself or by an encounter with someone/something associated with past drug-taking. (Zickler, Patrick. Acute Dopamine Surge May Erode Resolve to Abstain. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 19, No 1, p 1, 6. April, 2004.)

Serotonin and Dopamine must be constantly rebalanced in the brain. Stress can negatively impact this balance. When the rebalancing efficiency is impacted seriously, the chemical balance become severe enough to begin to see symptoms (e.g., depression). (Bost, Brent W., MD, FACOG. Hurried Woman Syndrome. p 14-15. NY: Vantage Press, 2001.)

Dopamine, a brain chemical that creates a sense of well-being, is enhanced by endorphins. (Hartmann, Thom. The Edison Gene. p 129-130. VT: Park Street Press, 2003.)

Dopamine is manufactured in the body from tyrosine. Dopamine can sexually stimulate males but apparently not females. (Durden-Smith, Jo, and Diane deSimone. Sex and the Brain. p 254-260. NY: Arbor House Publishing, 1983.)

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter essential for alert awareness. It seems to be involved with excitement felt from novel stimuli and most responsible for the initial excitement that comes with the use of cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol, and with addictive behaviors. (Guiffre, Kenneth, MD, with Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain. p 31-32. NJ: Career Press, 1999.)

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