Dopamine D2 receptor availability in opiate-dependent subjects before and after naloxone-precipitated withdrawal

Gene Jack Wang, Nora D. Volkow, Joanna S. Fowler, Jean Logan, Naji N. Abumrad, Robert J. Hitzemann, Naomi S. Pappas, Kathy Pascani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


Dopamine may play a role in opiate withdrawal and dependence. We measured dopamine D2 receptor availability in 11 opiate-dependent subjects using PET and [11C]raclopride at baseline and during naloxone-precipitated withdrawal. Because [11C]raclopride is sensitive to endogenous dopamine, this strategy enabled us to test whether we could document in humans the DA reductions reported in animal models of opiate withdrawal. Results were compared with values from 11 controls, two of which also received naloxone. The ratio of the distribution volume in striatum to that in cerebellum (B(max)/K(d) + 1) was used as model parameter for D2 receptor availability. Baseline measures for B(max)/K(d) were lower in opiate-dependent subjects (2.44 ± 0.4) than in controls (2.97 ± 0.45, p ≤ .009). Naloxone precipitated an intense withdrawal in the abusers but did not change the B(max)/K(d) ratio. This study documents decreases in D2 receptors in opiate-dependent subjects but does not document significant changes in striatal DA concentration during acute withdrawal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-182
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • PET, withdrawal
  • naloxone
  • opiate abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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