Background: Alcohol dependence has been associated with reduced function of serotonin, dopamine as well as noradrenaline activities in several neuroendocrine studies. To our knowledge, there is, however, no study investigating all these 3 systems with the use of neuroendocrine methods in one and the same alcohol-dependent individual.
Methods: Alcohol-dependent individuals (n = 42) and controls (n = 28) participated in the neuroendocrine test series. Central serotonergic neurotransmission was assessed by the prolactin (PRL) response to citalopram (CIT). The postsynaptic DRD2 function was measured by the growth hormone (GH) response to apomorphine (APO) and the postsynaptic α2-adrenoceptor function by GH response to clonidine (CLON).
Results: In the alcohol-dependent individuals, the PRL concentrations were significantly lower at the time points 240 minutes and 300 minutes after CIT administration and mean delta PRL value was significantly reduced by 45% in comparison with controls. There were no significant differences in APO-GH and CLON-GH concentrations at any time points or in mean delta GH values between the groups. An impaired monoaminergic profile, including all 3 systems, was significantly more frequent in alcohol-dependent individuals than controls (43% vs. 6% respectively).
Conclusions: The monoaminergic dysfunction was restricted to an impairment of the serotonergic system, suggesting that this system is especially vulnerable to long-term and excessive alcohol consumption. Moreover, impaired monoaminergic profiles, including low responses in 2 or 3 systems, were more frequently observed in alcohol-dependent individuals than in controls. Such impaired profiles may be of clinical importance, but further studies are needed.