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Alcohol withdrawal and dopamine receptor sensitivtty after prolonged abstinence

Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0278-5846(96)00104-2
  • Alcohol Dependence
  • Alcohol Withdrawal
  • Apomorphine
  • Dopamine Receptor Sensitivity
  • Medicine


Abstract 1. 1. Forty-four male inpatients suffering from moderate to severe alcohol dependence (DSMIII-R and ICD-10) as well as 14 healthy controls entered this study. Individuals were classified according to the severity of their withdrawal symptoms during Detoxification I. e. group 1) no withdrawal, group 2) autonomie hyperactivity, group 3) withdrawal delirium and group 4) controls. 2. 2. During the 6th week of treatment, that is, when all patients were recovered, controlled abstinent, and several weeks away from the end of their withdrawal syndrome, dopamine receptor sensitivity was neuroendocrinologically assessed by stimulating human growth hormone (HGH) with apomorphine (APO). 3. 3. In a repeated measures model ANOVA, the four groups differed significantly in their HGH release. However, when excluding the controls from the analysis and focusing on alcoholics only (group 1 – 3), the significant difference disappeared. Covariates such as age, weight, quantity of drinking and duration of dependence were not related to the dependent variable. 4. 4. In conclusion, the first significant result (with controls) reflects a blunted HGH response in alcoholics. It confirms earlier reports. The second, non significant result with the alcohol dependents only, suggests that the severity of withdrawal is not reflected by the amount of HGH released. Therefore, in alcoholics, a reduced dopamine receptor function after six weeks of abstinence, as neuro-endocrinologicaliy assessed with apomorphine, seems to be related to alcohol dependence rather than to the severity of alcohol withdrawal.

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