Effects of alcohol detoxification on dopamine D2 receptors in alcoholics: A preliminary study

Nora D. Volkow, Gene Jack Wang, Larry Maynard, Joanna S. Fowler, Budd Jayne, Frank Telang, Jean Logan, Yu Shin Ding, Samuel J. Gatley, Robert Hitzemann, Christopher Wong, Naome Pappas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


Imaging studies in patients with Type II alcohol dependence have revealed significant reductions in dopamine (DA) D2 receptor availability. Here we assessed the effects of alcohol detoxification in DA D2 receptors in alcoholic subjects. We evaluated 14 patients with Type II alcohol dependence tested within 6 weeks of detoxification and then re-tested 1-4 months later while alcohol free. The comparison group comprised 11 healthy controls. PET was used with [11C]raclopride to measure DA D2 receptors. Eight alcoholics and all control subjects were tested with a CTI 931 PET scanner and six alcoholics with a Siemens HR+ PET scanner. Data were analyzed separately for the studies done in the different scanners. Comparisons between early and late alcohol detoxification showed no significant changes in DA D2 receptor availability (Bmax/Kd) for the studies done with the CTI and the HR+ scanners. Comparison with controls showed lower DA D2 receptor levels in caudate and putamen in alcoholics tested during early detoxification and in caudate during late detoxification. These studies replicate previous findings of lower striatal DA D2 receptors in alcoholics than in controls and absence of significant recovery during alcohol detoxification. These findings suggest that low DA D2 receptor availability in alcoholics is not due to alcohol withdrawal and may reflect a predisposing factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-172
Number of pages10
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 30 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Addiction
  • GABA cells
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Predisposition
  • Raclopride
  • Reward
  • Striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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