Sexual effects and drugs of abuse: Possible links through learning

Chana K. Akins, Neil Levens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Clinical research points out that there is a comorbid relationship between drug addiction and high-risk sexual behavior. Much of this relationship has been explained as the use of sexual behavior as a way to exchange for drugs of abuse. However, studies using animal models have implicated neural and psychological mechanisms that may link drug abuse and risky sexual behavior. Both drug taking and sexual behavior involve overlapping neural circuitry, and both events also evoke dopamine efflux in the nucleus accumbens. This neural overlap appears to be sufficient to induce cross-sensitization. However, this cross-sensitization appears to be unilateral with chronic drug exposure resulting in the enhancement of sexual motivation and sexual behavior, but not the reverse. In contrast to the cross-sensitization literature, the findings of reinstatement studies have suggested that the neural overlap and involvement of dopamine may not be sufficient for the reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior following a sexual event that presumably primes the system. The purpose of the present chapter is to review this empirical literature and to discuss the possible role of learning as a link between the two, with particular emphasis on the incentive sensitization view of drug addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSubstance Abuse, Assessment and Addiction
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781621001188
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2011 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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