[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cocaine addiction is a major health problem that affects millions of people. Cocaine acts by inhibiting dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin [5-hydroxytryptamine(5-HT)] reuptake. The dopaminergic system is generally assumed to be involved in the reinforcing aspects of the drug, but the role of 5-HT in the addictive potential of cocaine is unclear. In light of pharmacological manipulations and cocaine use-related disease states affecting brain 5-HT levels, we review studies on the effect of cocaine on central 5-HT function. In addition, the contribution of 5-HT to the rewarding, aversive, discriminative and subjective, as well as the motivational and reinforcing effects of cocaine is discussed. We specifically focus on net changes in the extracellular 5-HT levels that occur as a consequence of acute and chronic cocaine exposure and how these influence cocaine abuse-related behaviour. Overall, the data indicate that 5-HT plays a major role in the psychomotor stimulant, rewarding and discriminative stimulant effects of cocaine, but also affects the motivational and reinforcing effects of the drug. In addition, 5-HT mediates, to some extent, the aversive effects of cocaine. Difficulties with data interpretation are discussed.