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Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Jun 15;57(12):1573-82.

Imaging brain mu-opioid receptors in abstinent cocaine users: time course and relation to cocaine craving.

Author information

  • 1Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA. dgorelic@intra.nida.nih.gov

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cocaine treatment upregulates brain mu-opioid receptors (mOR) in animals. Human data regarding this phenomenon are limited. We previously used positron emission tomography (PET) with [11C]-carfentanil to show increased mOR binding in brain regions of 10 cocaine-dependent men after 1 and 28 days of abstinence.

METHODS:

Regional brain mOR binding potential (BP) was measured with [11C]carfentanil PET scanning in 17 cocaine users over 12 weeks of abstinence on a research ward and in 16 healthy control subjects.

RESULTS:

Mu-opioid receptor BP was increased in the frontal, anterior cingulate, and lateral temporal cortex after 1 day of abstinence. Mu-opioid receptor BP remained elevated in the first two regions after 1 week and in the anterior cingulate and anterior frontal cortex after 12 weeks. Increased binding in some regions at 1 day and 1 week was positively correlated with self-reported cocaine craving. Mu-opioid receptor BP was significantly correlated with percentage of days with cocaine use and amount of cocaine used per day of use during the 2 weeks before admission and with urine benzoylecgonine concentration at the first PET scan.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results suggest that chronic cocaine use influences endogenous opioid systems in the human brain and might explain mechanisms of cocaine craving and reinforcement.

PMID:
15953495
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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