Courtesy National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Health
How do drugs work in the brain to produce pleasure?
Most drugs of abuse directly or indirectly target the brain’s reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. When activated at normal levels, this system rewards our natural behaviors. Over stimulating the system with drugs, however, produces euphoric effects, which strongly reinforce the behavior of drug use—teaching the user to repeat it.
Most drugs of abuse target the brain’s reward system by flooding it with dopamine.