The neuropeptide orexin/hypocretin (OX), while largely transcribed within the hypothalamus, is released throughout the brain to affect complex behaviors. Primarily through the hypothalamus itself, OX homeostatically regulates adaptive behaviors needed for survival, including food intake, sleep-wake regulation, mating, and maternal behavior. However, through extrahypothalamic limbic brain regions, OX promotes seeking and intake of rewarding substances of abuse, like palatable food, alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine. This neuropeptide, in turn, is stimulated by the intake of or early life exposure to these substances, forming a nonhomeostatic, positive feedback loop. The specific OX receptor involved in these behaviors, whether adaptive behavior or substance seeking and intake, is dependent on the particular brain region that contributes to them. Thus, we propose that, while the primary function of OX is to maintain arousal for the performance of adaptive behaviors, this neuropeptide system is readily co-opted by rewarding substances that involve positive feedback, ultimately promoting their abuse.