Reduced central serotonin transporters in alcoholism

Andreas Heinz, Paul Ragan, Douglas W. Jones, Dan Hommer, Wendol Williams, Michael B. Knable, Julia G. Gorey, Linda Doty, Christopher Geyer, Kan S. Lee, Richard Coppola, Daniel R. Weinberger, Markku Linnoila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

240 Scopus citations


Objective: Dysfunction of monoamine uptake mechanisms has been implicated in the pathogenesis of alcohol dependence. The authors explored whether serotonergic dysfunction is associated with anxiety and depression, which increase the risk of relapse in alcoholics. Method: The availability of serotonin and dopamine transporters in 22 male alcoholics and 13 healthy male volunteers was measured with the use of [123I]β-CIT and single photon emission computed tomography, and psychopathological correlates were assessed. Results: A significant reduction (a mean of about 30%) in the availability of brainstem serotonin transporters was found in the alcoholics, which was significantly correlated with lifetime alcohol consumption and with ratings of depression and anxiety during withdrawal. Conclusions: The findings support the hypothesis of serotonergic dysfunction in alcoholism and in withdrawal-emergent depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1544-1549
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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