Decreased dopaminergic function has been postulated to underlie cocaine addiction. To examine the possibility that dysfunction of brain regions subserved by the dopamine system could promote cocaine self-administration, positron emission tomography and a dual-tracer approach was used to examine dopamine D2 receptor availability and regional brain glucose metabolism in cocaine abusers. When compared to normal controls, cocaine abusers showed significant decreases in dopamine D2 receptor availability which persisted 3-4 months after detoxification. Decreases in dopamine D2 receptor availability were associated with decreased metabolism in several regions of the frontal lobes, most markedly orbito-frontal cortex and cingulate gyri. Dopamine dysregulation of these brain areas which are involved in the channeling of drive and affect could lead to loss of control resulting in compulsive drug-taking behavior.