Pharmacology

Research has been focused on the neurochemical and neuroanatomical substrates that mediate cocaine's reinforcing effects. Although a number of NEUROTRANSMITTER systems are involved, there is growing evidence that cocaine's effects on dopaminergic neurons in the mesolimbic and/or meso-cortical neuronal systems of the brain are most closely associated with its reinforcing and other be havioral effects. The initial site of action in the brain for its reinforcing effects has been hypothesized to be the dopamine transporter of mesolimbocortical neurons. Cocaine action at the DOPAMINE transporter has the effect of inhibiting dopamine re-uptake, resulting in higher levels of dopamine at the synapse. These dopaminergic pathways may mediate the reinforcing effects of other stimulants and opiates as well. A substantial body of evidence suggests that dopamine plays a major role in mediating cocaine's reinforcing effects, although it is clear that cocaine affects not only the dopamine but also the SEROTONIN and noradrenaline systems.

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