Long-term frontal brain metabolic changes in cocaine abusers

N. D. Volkow, Robert Hitzemann, G. J. Wang, J. S. Fowler, A. P. Wolf, S. L. Dewey, L. Handlesman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

309 Scopus citations


Neurological complications from cocaine use are well recognized. We propose that chronic cocaine use can also cause clinically silent brain dysfunction. We investigated brain glucose metabolism with positron emission tomography (PET) and 2-deoxy-2[18F] fluoro-D-glucose (FDG) in 21 neurologically intact chronic cocaine abusers (C) and 18 normal controls (N). The cocaine abusers were tested 1-6 weeks after the last use of cocaine and seven were retested after a 3 month drug-free period. Global cerebral glucose metabolism was not significantly different between controls and cocaine abusers (N = 38.4±3, C = 36.5±5 μmol/100 g of tissue, min). However, cocaine abusers had significantly (P <0.05) lower metabolic activity in 16 of the 21 left frontal regions and 8 of the 21 right frontal regions. These decreases persisted after 3-4 months of detoxification and were correlated with the dose (P ≤ 0.01) and the years of cocaine use (P ≤ 0.05). This study shows reduced rates of frontal metabolism in neurologically intact cocaine abusers that persist even after 3-4 months of detoxification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-190
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology

Cite this

Volkow, N. D., Hitzemann, R., Wang, G. J., Fowler, J. S., Wolf, A. P., Dewey, S. L., & Handlesman, L. (1992). Long-term frontal brain metabolic changes in cocaine abusers. Synapse, 11(3), 184-190. https://doi.org/10.1002/syn.890110303