Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Neurobiological changes mediating the effects of chronic fluoxetine on cocaine use.

PMID 22434223


Acute SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) treatment has been shown to attenuate the abuse-related effects of cocaine; however, SSRIs have had limited success in clinical trials for cocaine abuse, possibly due to neurobiological changes that occur during chronic administration. In order to better understand the role of serotonin (5HT) in cocaine abuse and treatment, we examined the effects of chronic treatment with the SSRI fluoxetine at clinically relevant serum concentrations on cocaine-related neurobiology and behavior. Rhesus macaques self-administering cocaine underwent a 6-week dosing regimen with fluoxetine designed to approximate serum concentrations observed in humans. Self-administration and reinstatement were monitored throughout the treatment and washout period. In vivo microdiaylsis was used to assess changes in dopaminergic and serotonergic neurochemistry. Positron emission tomography was used to assess changes in the 5HT transporter and 2A receptor binding potential (BP). Functional output of the 5HT system was assessed using prolactin levels. Cocaine-primed reinstatement and cocaine-elicited dopamine overflow were significantly suppressed following chronic fluoxetine treatment. 5HT2A receptor BP was increased in the frontal cortex following treatment while prolactin release was blunted, suggesting desensitization of the 5HT2A receptor. These effects persisted after a 6-week washout period. Measures of pre-synaptic serotonergic function and cocaine self-administration were unaffected. These data demonstrate that acute and chronic fluoxetine treatments exert different effects on cocaine-related behavior. Furthermore, chronic fluoxetine treatment causes alterations in 5HT2A receptors in the frontal cortex that may selectively disrupt cocaine-primed reinstatement. Fluoxetine may not be useful for treatment of ongoing cocaine abuse but may be useful in relapse prevention.