Alcohol and psycho-active substance misuse has far-reaching social, psychological and physical consequences. Advances in neuroimaging technology have allowed neurobiological theories of addiction to become better characterized. We describe the neurobiology of dependence, withdrawal, abstinence and craving states in alcohol, stimulant and opiate misuse. Structural neuroimaging techniques such as CT and MRI with new analytical approaches such as voxel-based morphometry have shown wide-spread changes in stimulant and opiate abuse and atrophy, particularly in the frontal lobes, in alcoholism. Functional neuroimaging techniques such as PET, SPECT and fMRI reveal altered regional cerebral activity by all drugs of abuse. The neurochemistry of addiction, particularly involving dopamine, serotonin, opiate and GABA, has been studied with PET and SPECT and similarities between all drugs of abuse have been found such as reduced dopaminergic markers. The evidence derived from these advances in neuroimaging is likely to herald the emergence of new biological treatments in this important field.