Nucleus accumbens (NAc) dopamine is widely implicated in mediating the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse. However, the precise function of the NAc itself in drug self-administration has been difficult to establish. Here we show a neural double-dissociation of the behavioral processes that underlie cocaine self-administration in rats. Whereas selective excitotoxic lesions of the NAc core had only a minor effect on the acquisition of responding for cocaine under a standard schedule of continuous reinforcement, these lesions profoundly impaired the acquisition of drug-seeking behavior that was maintained by drug-associated conditioned reinforcers and assessed using a second-order schedule of cocaine reinforcement. In contrast, selective excitotoxic lesions of the NAc shell did not impair drug self-administration or the acquisition of cocaine-seeking, but they did attenuate the psychostimulant effects of cocaine. These results further our understanding of how the NAc controls drug-seeking and drug-taking behavior.