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Biol Psychiatry. 1991 Nov 15;30(10):1017-30.

Neuroendocrine responses to serotonergic agents in alcoholics.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.


Previous studies have suggested a possible deficit in serotonergic function in alcoholism. In order to further assess the serotonergic system in alcoholism, the plasma cortisol and prolactin (PRL) responses following 6-chloro-2-[1-piperazinyl]pyrazine (MK-212), a direct-acting serotonin2 (5-HT2)/5-HT1c receptor agonist, L-5-hydroxytryptophan (L-5-HTP), a precursor of 5-HT, and placebo were compared in male alcoholics and normal controls. The increase in plasma cortisol following L-5-HTP was significantly lower in the alcoholic subjects compared with the normal controls. The plasma PRL, but not the plasma cortisol response, following MK-212 was also significantly lower in the alcoholics. L-5-HTP had no significant effect on plasma PRL levels in either group. The basal plasma cortisol and PRL concentrations of the alcoholics and normal controls were not significantly different. These data are consistent with previous reports of a serotonergic abnormality in alcoholism.

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