Background: Recently we reported that, in vervet monkeys, ingestion of an amino acid mixture deficient in the catecholamine precursors, phenylalanine and tyrosine, produced a decrease in alcohol self-administration. We now report the results of a similar study in humans.
Methods: Three groups of healthy female social drinkers were administered a nutritionally balanced amino acid mixture (B, n= 13), a mixture deficient in the serotonin precursor, tryptophan (Trp-free, n= 14), or a phenylalanine/tyrosine deficient mixture (Phe/Tyr-free, n= 12). Six hours after administration of the amino acid mixture, alcohol ingestion was measured during a free-choice “Taste Test.”
Results: Compared to the B mixture, Phe/Tyr-free, but not Trp-free, significantly decreased the ingestion of alcohol [p < 0.02]. Neither Phe/Tyr-free nor Trp-free significantly decreased orange juice ingestion or the self-reported “Liking” of either substance. Some subjects experienced transient nausea and/or regurgitated the amino acid mixtures, but excluding these subjects did not change the results.
Conclusions: The results suggest that (a) Phe/Tyr-free may be a suitable method for investigating the role of catecholamines in the self-administration and subjective effects of alcohol, (b) acutely decreased catecholamine neurotransmission might disrupt mechanisms mediating alcohol self-administration, and (c) acutely decreased serotonin neurotransmission seems not to alter alcohol self-administration.