Brain cannabinoid CB 1 receptors contribute to alcohol-related behaviors in experimental animals, but their potential role in humans with alcohol dependence is poorly understood. We measured CB 1 receptors in alcohol dependent patients in early and protracted abstinence, and in comparison with control subjects without alcohol use disorders, using positron emission tomography and (18 F)FMPEP-d 2, a radioligand for CB 1 receptors. We scanned 18 male in-patients with alcohol dependence twice, within 3-7 days of admission from ongoing drinking, and after 2-4 weeks of supervised abstinence. Imaging data were compared with those from 19 age-matched healthy male control subjects. Data were also analyzed for potential influence of a common functional variation (rs2023239) in the CB 1 receptor gene (CNR1) that may moderate CB 1 receptor density. On the first scan, CB 1 receptor binding was 20-30% lower in patients with alcohol dependence than in control subjects in all brain regions and was negatively correlated with years of alcohol abuse. After 2-4 weeks of abstinence, CB 1 receptor binding remained similarly reduced in these patients. Irrespective of the diagnostic status, C allele carriers at rs2023239 had higher CB 1 receptor binding compared with non-carriers. Alcohol dependence is associated with a widespread reduction of cannabinoid CB 1 receptor binding in the human brain and this reduction persists at least 2-4 weeks into abstinence. The correlation of reduced binding with years of alcohol abuse suggests an involvement of CB 1 receptors in alcohol dependence in humans.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience