Alcohol addiction (alcoholism) is one of the most prevalent substance abuse disorders worldwide. Addiction is thought to arise, in part, from a maladaptive learning process in which enduring memories of drug experiences are formed. However, alcohol (ethanol) generally interferes with synaptic plasticity mechanisms in the CNS and thus impairs various types of learning and memory. Therefore, it is unclear how powerful memories associated with alcohol experience are formed during the development of alcoholism. Here, using brain slice electrophysiology in mice, we show that repeated in vivo ethanol exposure (2 g/kg, i.p., three times daily for 7 d) causes increased susceptibility to the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) of NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-mediated transmission in mesolimbic dopamine neurons, a form of synaptic plasticity that may drive the learning of stimuli associated with rewards, including drugs of abuse. Enhancement of NMDAR plasticity results from an increase in the potency of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) in producing facilitation of action potential-evoked Ca2+ signals, which is critical for LTP induction. This increase in IP3 effect, which lasts for a week but not a month after ethanol withdrawal, occurs through a protein kinase A (PKA)-dependent mechanism. Corticotropin-releasing factor, a stress-related neuropeptide implicated in alcoholism and other addictions, further amplifies the PKA-mediated increase in IP3 effect in ethanol-treated mice. Finally, we found that ethanol-treated mice display enhanced place conditioning induced by the psychostimulant cocaine. These data suggest that repeated ethanol experience may promote the formation of drug-associated memories by enhancing synaptic plasticity of NMDARs in dopamine neurons.