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Addiction – Substance Use Disorders

2. Biological Mechanisms

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In this lecture, we think about the biological underpinnings of addiction, focusing in particular on: (i) the popular but reductionist view of dopamine as a ‘happy hormone’; (ii) the dopamine pathway, which originates in the ventral tegmental area and travels to the striatum; (iii) the nature of the dopamine pathway being conserved across different species; (iv) defining drugs as chemical substances which evoke a biological response in living organisms; (v) the commonality of all addictive drugs to act on the dopamine system by enhancing its activity; (vi) the receptors which nicotine, alcohol and opioids can each act on to release certain neurotransmitters.


In this course, Dr Lauren Burgeno (University of Oxford) explores substance use disorders. In the first lecture, we think about drug addiction, a commonly used term which refers to a substance use disorder, and how it is studied. In the second lecture, we think about the biological underpinnings of addiction. In the third lecture, we think about factors which contribute to someone’s susceptibility to addiction after engaging in substance use. Next, we think about some pharmacological and non-pharmacological strategies implemented to treat drug addiction. In the fifth and final lecture, we think about how harm reduction policies can be used to help alleviate the suffering of individuals with substance use disorders and improve their communities.


Dr Lauren Burgeno is a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at the University of Oxford. Dr Burgeno’s research interests are in the mechanisms by which striatal acetylcholine gates cue-elicited dopamine release and how this contributes to addiction related behaviour. Some of Dr Burgeno’s recent publications include 'Time-dependent assessment of stimulus-evoked regional dopamine release' (2019) and 'Genetic isolation of hypothalamic neurons that regulate context-specific male social behaviour' (2016).

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APA style

Burgeno, L. (2022, May 25). Addiction – Substance Use Disorders - Biological Mechanisms [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Burgeno, L. "Addiction – Substance Use Disorders – Biological Mechanisms." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 25 May 2022,

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