The transition from casual drug use to addiction, and the intense drug craving that accompanies it, has been postulated to result from neuroadaptations within the limbic system caused by repeated drug exposure. This review will examine the implications of cocaine-induced alterations in mesolimbic dopamine receptor signaling within the context of several widely used animal models of addiction. Extensive evidence indicates that dopaminergic mechanisms critically mediate behavioral sensitization to cocaine, cocaine-induced conditioned place preference, cocaine self-administration, and the drug prime-induced reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior. The propagation of the long-term neuronal changes associated with recurring cocaine use appears to occur at the level of postreceptor signal transduction. Repeated cocaine treatment causes an up-regulation of the 3',5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)-signaling pathway within the nucleus accumbens, resulting in a dys-regulation of balanced D1/D2 dopamine-like receptor signaling. The intracellular events arising from enhanced D1-like postsynaptic signaling mediate both facilitatory and compensatory responses to the further reinforcing effects of cocaine.