Drug addiction: the neurobiology of behaviour gone awry


Drug addiction manifests as a compulsive drive to take a drug despite serious adverse consequences. This aberrant behaviour has traditionally been viewed as bad 'choices' that are made voluntarily by the addict. However, recent studies have shown that repeated drug use leads to long-lasting changes in the brain that undermine voluntary control. This, combined with new knowledge of how environmental, genetic and developmental factors contribute to addiction, should bring about changes in our approach to the prevention and treatment of addiction.

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Figure 1: Drug addiction as a disease of the brain.
Figure 2: Age at which marijuana use is first initiated.
Figure 3: Dopamine D2 receptors and glucose metabolism in addiction.
Figure 4: Use and risk perception of marijuana.
Figure 5: Monoamine oxidase B concentration and cigarette smoking.


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The authors thank T. Condon, M. Egli, J. Fowler, C. Kassed, R. Litten, A. Noronha and J. Swanson for thoughtful comments and editorial assistance.

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Volkow, N., Li, T. Drug addiction: the neurobiology of behaviour gone awry. Nat Rev Neurosci 5, 963–970 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn1539

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