Increased lung permeability following long-term use of free-base cocaine (crack)

H. Susskind, D. A. Weber, N. D. Volkow, R. Hitzemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


The clearance of inhaled 99mTc DTPA aerosol from the lungs is used as an index of lung epithelial permeability. Using the radioaerosol method, we investigated the effects of long-term 'crack' (free-base cocaine) inhalation on lung permeability in 23 subjects. Eighteen control subjects (12 nonsmokers and 6 cigarette smokers) with no history of drug use were also studied. Subjects inhaled ~150 μCi (~5.6 MBq) of 99mTc DTPA aerosol and quantitative gamma camera images of the lungs were acquired at 1-min increments for 25 minutes. Regions of interest (ROIs) were selected to include the following: (1) both lungs; (2) each individual lung; and (3) the upper, middle, and lower thirds of each lung. 99mTc DTPA lung clearance was determined from the slopes of the respective time-activity plots for the different ROIs. Radioaerosol clearance half-times (T( 1/2 )) for the seven nonsmoking crack users (61.5±18.3 minutes) were longer than for the seven cigarette-smoking crack users (27.9±16.9 minutes) and nine cigarette-smoking crack plus marijuana users (33.5±21.6 minutes). T( 1/2 ) for the nonsmoking crack users was significantly shorter (p<0.001) than for the nonsmoking control group (123.8±28.7 minutes). T( 1/2 ) for the cigarette-smoking drug users was similar to that of the cigarette-smoking control group (33.1±17.8 minutes), suggesting a similar mechanism of damage from the smoke of crack and tobacco. From these groups, one nonsmoker and 11 cigarette smokers displayed biexponential 99mTc DTPA clearances, indicative of greater lung injury than found in the usual cases of monoexponential clearance. The upper lungs of all crack user groups cleared faster than the lower lungs. The faster and biexponential clearance properties of inhaled 99mTc DTPA aerosol were the principal functional abnormalities found in all the drug users. In contrast, 19 of 23 crack users had normal spirometry and gas exchange. These results indicate that 99mTc DTPA may provide a sensitive and useful assay to evaluate the physiologic effects of cocaine inhalation in the lung.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)903-909
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Increased lung permeability following long-term use of free-base cocaine (crack)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this