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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Effect of tryptophan depletion on alcohol cue-induced craving in abstinent alcoholic patients.

BACKGROUND: The capacity of alcohol cues to precipitate the desire to drink may be an important determinant of relapse to alcohol use in recovering alcohol-dependent patients. This study evaluated whether attenuation of serotonin synthesis via depletion of its precursor tryptophan reduces the magnitude of cue-induced craving for alcohol in recently abstinent alcoholic individuals. METHODS: Alcohol-dependent patients (n = 16), 1 to 3 months after detoxification, who exhibited a 20% or greater increase in reported craving when presented with an alcoholic beverage, completed two additional alcohol cue-exposure test days, 1 week apart. Each cue exposure was preceded by administration of a concentrated amino acid drink that resulted in a rapid and significant decline in plasma free tryptophan (active depletion, no tryptophan supplementation) or a similar drink containing tryptophan (placebo depletion). Tests were conducted in a randomized, double-blind fashion. RESULTS: There were no significant changes in the magnitude of cue-induced craving with active tryptophan depletion compared with placebo. CONCLUSIONS: These data question the dependence of alcohol cue-induced craving in sober alcoholics on the ongoing synthesis of serotonin.[1]


  1. Effect of tryptophan depletion on alcohol cue-induced craving in abstinent alcoholic patients. Petrakis, I.L., Trevisan, L., Boutros, N.N., Limoncelli, D., Cooney, N.L., Krystal, J.H. Alcohol. Clin. Exp. Res. (2001) [Pubmed]
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