The dopamine system and alcohol dependence

Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. 2014 Apr;26(2):61-8. doi: 10.3969/j.issn.1002-0829.2014.02.002.


Alcohol dependence is a common mental disorder that is associated with substantial disease burden. Current efforts at prevention and treatment of alcohol dependence are of very limited effectiveness. A better understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying dependence is essential to improving the outcomes of treatment and prevention initiatives. To date, most of the efforts have focused on the key role of the dopamine system in the complex etiological network of alcohol dependence. This review summarizes current research about the relationships between alcohol consumption and the dopaminergic system. We find that many of the currently available studies have contradictory results, presumably due to differences in methodology, non-linear dosage effects, use of different samples, and the possible confounding effects of other neurotransmitter systems.


Keywords: alcohol dependence; dopamine; neurobiochemistry; review.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

The authors did not receive any financial support for preparing this review.