Effects of Acute Combined Serotonin and Dopamine Depletion on Cue-Induced Drinking Intention/Desire and Cognitive Function in Patients with Alcohol Dependence

Author(s): Sun H Q, Liu Y, Li P, Bao Y, Sheng L, et al.


Background: Alcohol cues can precipitate the desire to drink and cause relapse in recovering alcohol-dependent patients. Serotonin and dopamine may play a role in alcohol cue-induced craving. Acute combined tryptophan (Trp), tyrosine (Tyr), and phenylalanine (Phe) depletion (CMD) in the diet attenuates the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine in the human brain. However, no study of the effects of acute CMD has been previously conducted. Therefore, we investigated whether the attenuation of serotonin and dopamine synthesis changes cue-induced alcohol craving in recently abstinent alcoholics.

Methods: In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover design, 12 male patients who met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, criteria for alcohol dependence were divided into two conditions: (1) monoamine depletion (i.e., consumption of a concentrated amino acid beverage that resulted in a rapid and significant decrease in plasma-free Tyr/Phe/Trp) and (2) balanced condition (i.e., consumption of a similar beverage that contained Tyr/Phe/Trp). The participants were scheduled for two experimental sessions, with an interval of ≥7 days. The cue-induced craving test session was conducted 6h after each amino acid beverage administration. Drinking urge, blood pressure, heart rate, working memory, and attention/psychomotor performance were assessed before and after administration.

Results: Compared with the balanced condition, the monoamine depletion condition significantly increased drinking intention/desire and diastolic blood pressure. Cognitive performance was not different between the two conditions.

Conclusions: Acute combined serotonin and dopamine depletion may increase drinking intention/desire and diastolic blood pressure without influencing cognitive function.

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