Research has shown that the key in addiction development is neurophysiologic strengthening (Van den Oever, Spijker, & Smit, 2012). It has been discovered that neurophysiologic reinforcement uses a pathway comprised of dopaminergic neurons arising from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and moving on to the forebrain (Piazza & Deroche-Gamonet, 2013). Events leading to drug addiction are made up of severe effects at particulate action sites of the abused substance. The action sites normally trigger the neural connections linked with neurophysiologic reinforcement. The pathway followed by these circuits reacts with glutamatergic projections stemming from parts of the brain like the cerebral cortex. As a result, the pathway controls response to sex, food and other natural stimulants. Studies show that the pathway that has long been suggested to cause neurophysiologic reinforcement is called the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic pathway. Various abused substances are indirectly or directly implicated in the promotion of dopamine extracellular levels in the nucleus accumbens. Cannabinoid receptors located in the striatum are presynaptically localized in two nerve terminals, the glutamatergic and the GABAergic. They are also localized postsynaptically in the spines and the dendritic shafts of the GABAergic, dynorphinergic, and enkephlinergic efferent neurons (Justinova, Panlilio, & Goldberg, 2009).
Justinova, Panlilio, and Goldberg (2009) note that depolarization of these cells leads to the production of endocannabinoids in the VTA and the nucleus accumbumens. In these locations, they influence the inhibitory and the excitatory inputs that regulate the dopaminergic neurons of the mesocorticolimbic system. They do so by functioning as retrograde messengers in cannabinoid receptors. The produced endocannabinoids also constitute synaptic plasticity found in the mesolimbic pathway (Kalivas & OBrien, 2008). Further research has shown that the endocannabinoid system is ...
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