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Drug addiction and the brain: effects of dopamine on addiction

January 01, 2007

BOSTON, MA — New research on the brain is showing that addiction is a matter of memories, and recovery is a slow process in which the influence of those memories is diminished, reports the January 2007 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

Studies have shown that addictive drugs stimulate a reward circuit in the brain. The circuit provides incentives for action by registering the value of important experiences. Rewarding experiences trigger the release of the brain chemical dopamine, telling the brain "do it again." What makes permanent recovery difficult is drug-induced change that creates lasting memories linking the drug to a pleasurable reward.

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