The neurobiology of addiction: an overview

Alcohol Health Res World. 1997;21(2):101-6.


Addiction can be defined in part as a compulsion to use alcohol or other drugs and the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms when long-term consumption ceases. In addition to physical symptoms related to nervous system hyperexcitability, withdrawal includes changes in mental state that may motivate renewed AOD consumption. The manifestations of addiction are associated with changes in nerve cell function by which the brain attempts to adapt to a drug's presence. These functional changes modulate a person's initial response to a drug, the establishment of long-term craving for the drug (i.e., addiction), and the persistent sense of discomfort that leads to relapse after abstinence has been achieved. Research is beginning to reveal how specific brain regions may be integrated to form neural circuits that modulate aspects of addiction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / metabolism
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / metabolism
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*