In this review we summarize data obtained from animal studies showing that glucocorticoid hormones have a facilitatory role on behavioural responses to psychostimulant drugs such as locomotor activity, self-administration and relapse. These behavioural effects of glucocorticoids involve an action on the meso-accumbens dopamine system, one of the major systems mediating the addictive properties of drugs of abuse. The effects of glucocorticoids in the nucleus accumbens are site-specific; these hormones modify dopamine transmission in only the shell of this nucleus without modifying it in the core. Studies with corticosteroid receptor antagonists suggest that the dopaminergic effects of these hormones depend mostly on glucocorticoid, not on mineralocorticoid receptors. These data suggest that an increase in glucocorticoid hormones, through an action on mesolimbic dopamine neurons, could increase vulnerability to drug abuse. We also discuss the implications of this finding with respect to the physiological role of glucocorticoids. It is proposed that an increase in glucocorticoids, by activating the reward pathway, could counteract the aversive effects of stress. During chronic stress, repeated increases in glucocorticoids and dopamine would result in sensitization of the reward system. This sensitized state, which can persist after the end of the stress, would render the subject more responsive to drugs of abuse and consequently more vulnerable to the development of addiction.