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Life's rewardsLinking dopamine, incentive learning, schizophrenia, and the mind$
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Richard J. Beninger

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198824091

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198824091.001.0001

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Drug abuse and incentive learning

Drug abuse and incentive learning

(p.245) Chapter 10 Drug abuse and incentive learning
Life's rewards

Richard J. Beninger

Oxford University Press

Drug abuse and incentive learning explains how abused drugs, including nicotine, ethanol, marijuana, amphetamine, cocaine, morphine, and heroin, produce conditioned place preference and are self-administered; dopamine receptor antagonists block these effects. Stimuli that become reliable predictors of drug reward produce burst firing in dopaminergic neurons, but the drug retains its ability to activate dopaminergic neurons. Thus, repeated drug users experience two activations of dopaminergic neurotransmission, one upon exposure to the conditioned stimuli signaling the drug and another upon taking the drug. This may lead to long-term neurobiological changes that contribute to withdrawal and addiction. Withdrawal can be remediated by abstinence but this does not reduce the conditioned incentive value of cues associated with drug taking; those cues can lead to relapse. Effective treatment will include detoxification and systematic exposure to drug taking-associated conditioned incentive stimuli in the absence of drug so that those stimuli lose their ability to control responses.

Keywords:   addiction, cannabinoid, drug abuse, dopamine, incentive learning, nicotine, opioid, relapse, reward, withdrawal

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