• Citalopram;
  • Serotonin Transporter;
  • Polymorphism;
  • Adrenocorticotropin;
  • Prolactin;
  • Neuroendocrine;
  • Cortisol

Background The integrity of serotonin neurotransmission may be important in reducing risk for alcoholism and in preventing relapse to alcohol dependence. There are several lines of evidence suggesting that alcohol dependent persons have an altered and/or injured serotonin system. The purpose of this study was to examine ACTH, cortisol, and prolactin responses to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), citalopram, as a function of personal or family history of alcohol dependence in a group of abstinent alcohol dependent men.

Methods Twelve healthy, abstinent male participants who met diagnostic criteria for a history of alcohol dependence but not for other Axis I disorders were included in the study (mean years abstinent, 3.5 ± 3.7; mean years of dependent drinking, 15.2 ± 6.9). Fourteen healthy volunteers served as control subjects. Controls did not meet the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for any Axis I disorders and history of drug or alcohol abuse or dependence. All subjects were also characterized by the presence or absence of family history of alcoholism validated by collateral interviews.

Results ACTH responses to citalopram were minimally faster in abstinent alcohol dependent men compared to controls. However, cortisol and prolactin responses to citalopram did not differ by personal or family history of alcohol dependence. There was no correlation between hormone responses and the duration of abstinence from alcohol; between hormone responses and the years of dependent drinking and between hormone responses and NEO Personality Inventory scores.

Conclusion By probing the functional capacity of the serotonin system with citalopram, we did not detect physiologically relevant hormone differences between abstinent alcohol dependent men and controls.