Brain Reward Pathway

Describe the so-called “brain reward pathway” and explain its importance to understanding the effects of drug seeking behavior.  Provide an example to support your description.  


Doing some drugs causes the brain to release a more than normal amount of dopamine. Addictive drugs all increase brain levels of dopamine. Dopamine in the brain is what makes us feel good. It is the feeling we get when we eat ice cream, make love, or getting a compliment (Powledge, 1999). Addictive drugs interfere with normal dopamine handling. Cocaine imitates dopamine so well that it can bind to the transporter and block dopamine re-uptake. I am not exactly sure what that means. However, I am sure that I will learn during this class. Addicts seek drugs to get that same feeling. 




Powledge, T. M. (1999). Addiction and the brain. Bioscience, 49(7), 513.

If “it” Provides Relief, “it” can and will be Abused

Relative to non-substance addictions, explain the following statement: “If ‘it’ provides relief, ‘it’ can and will be abused.”

Anything that provides relief, whether it’s a substance or activity, can and will be abused. This is because anything that provides relief affects the brain reward pathway. What happens with these substances or activities that make us feel relief is that dopamine is released in the brain. When we receive a flattering compliment, have sexual intercourse, or eat a yummy meal, dopamine is released in the brain. Any activities or substances that provide relief or give us a sense of well being are associated with feeling good, and the brain is going to chase that good feeling. Anytime a person feels sideways, he wants relief. Anytime a person feels stressed out or overwhelmed, he wants relief. Anytime a person feels normal, he might want that feeling of relief. People always want to feel better than their current state. Because people are always chasing that feeling, any substance or activity that provides relief is going to be abused. As the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.