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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2002 Jan 1;65(2):159-65.

Is long-term heavy alcohol consumption toxic for brain serotonergic neurons? Relationship between years of excessive alcohol consumption and serotonergic neurotransmission.

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Institute of Clinical Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry, Sahlgren University Hospital/Mölndal, SE-431 80 Mölndal, Sweden.


The relationship between years of excessive alcohol consumption and central serotonergic neurotransmission, as assessed by the prolactin (PRL) response to D-fenfluramine, was investigated in 22 male alcohol-dependent subjects. A negative correlation was obtained, that is, the longer duration of excessive alcohol consumption the lower PRL response to D-fenfluramine. It is therefore suggested that long duration of excessive alcohol consumption in alcohol-dependent subjects causes a reduction in central serotonergic neurotransmission, possibly by a toxic effect of alcohol on serotonin neurons. The relationship between depressive and anxiety symptoms during on-going drinking and the PRL response to D-fenfluramine was also investigated. No such correlations were obtained, suggesting that reduction in central serotonergic neurotransmission does not pre-dispose to the development of depressive and anxiety symptoms, at least in relation to on-going drinking in alcohol-dependent subjects.

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