How is dopamine involved in addiction?
Dopamine is a neutrotransmitter -- a kind of chemical that transmits information from neuron to neuron.
When a person takes some kinds of addictive drugs, like cocaine or heroin, the drugs affect the way that dopamine is produced or the way that it is taken up. In either case, the use of the drugs causes there to be excess dopamine levels in the body.
This is important because the body appears to use dopamine to alert itself as to what is important. It surges when we are hungry and smell food and it surges when we sense danger. If dopamine levels are increased by drug use, the increased dopamine levels tell us we need the drug.
Thus, dopamine production is at the base of the biological process of addiction.
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