Over the last two decades, SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) and especially PET (positron emission tomography) have proven increasingly effective imaging modalities in the study of human psychopharmacology. Abusing populations can be studied at multiple times after abstinence begins, to give information about neurochemical and physiological adaptations of the brain during recovery from addiction. Individual human subjects can be studied using multiple positron labeled radiotracers, so as to probe more than one facet of brain function. PET and SPECT have been used to help our understanding of many aspects of the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of abused drugs, and have made valuable contributions in terms of drug mechanisms, drug interactions (e.g. cocaine and alcohol) and drug toxicities. They have also been employed to study the acute effects of drugs on populations of active drug abusers and of normal controls, and to evaluate the neurochemical consequences of candidate therapies for drug abuse. A particularly productive strategy has been the use of PET in conjunction with neuropsychological testing of subjects, to allow correlation of imaging data with uniquely human aspects of the effects of drugs, such as euphoria and craving.
Keywords: human imaging, radiotracer, alcoholism, radiopharmaceutical, drug clearance, labeled drug, opioids
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