For individuals battling addiction, memories of people, places, and other things they associate with using drugs can trigger powerful cravings. This phenomenon is considered one of the most pernicious aspects of addiction and has been studied as a potential target for treatment.
Animal models of addiction are beginning to provide clues to the molecular basis of this phenomenon and findings in recent years suggest glutamate receptors play an important role. Repeated administration of psychoactive drugs such as cocaine and amphetamine have been shown to cause craving-like behavior in mice and corresponding reduction in glutamate-mediated communication between cells in the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain's reward system (Thomas MJ et al. Nat Neurosci. 2001;4:1217-1223).
Kuehn BM. Scientists Seek Cause of Drug Craving. JAMA. 2006;295(2):148-149. doi:10.1001/jama.295.2.148