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Do All Drugs Affect the Brain Similarly?

Scientists now think that all drugs of abuse directly or indirectly affect the so-called "reward pathway," a linked set of areas deep in the brain. All these drugs converge on the same brain regions, masquerading as natural chemicals -- including dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in the experience of pleasure -- in those reward circuits.

-- Janet Firshein
 

ANIMATION:
Areas of the brain of a cocaine user "light up" in PET scans as the drug acts on it.

The reward path of the brain

The "reward pathway" in the brain that is activated by natural rewards and by artificial rewards such as addictive drugs.

Top: PET scans for animation courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory
Bottom image: Courtesy of NIDA

ANIMATIONS | Differences | Crossing the Line | Relapse | Why Drugs? | Similar Effects | Dependence | Vulnerability | Changing Back | Interviews

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