As the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, glutamate plays an undisputable integral role in opiate addiction. This relates, in part, to the fact that addiction is a disorder of learning and memory, and glutamate is required for most types of memory formation. As opiate addiction develops, the addict becomes conditioned to engage in addictive behaviors, and these behaviors can be triggered by opiate-associated cues during abstinence, resulting in relapse. Some medications for opiate addiction exert their therapeutic effects at glutamate receptors, especially the NMDA receptor. Understanding the neural circuits controlling opiate addiction, and the locus of glutamate's actions within these circuits, will help guide the development of targeted pharmacotherapeutics for relapse. © 2012 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.