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Cerebral Blood Flow in Chronic Cocaine Users: A Study with Positron Emission Tomography

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Nora D. Volkow*
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Nizar Mullani
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
K. Lance Gould
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Stephen Adler
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Kenneth Krajewski
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Medical Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Associated Universities Inc., Upton, Long Island, New York 11973, USA


Occurrence of cerebrovascular accidents has been associated with cocaine abuse. We investigated the relative distribution of cerebral blood flow (CBF) in groups of chronic cocaine users, and of normal controls. Relative CBF was measured using positron emission tomography and 15oxygen-labelled water. The cocaine users showed areas of deranged CBF as evidenced by patchy regions of defective isotope accumulation throughout their brain. The chronic cocaine users showed decreased relative CBF in the prefrontal cortex when compared with normal subjects. The repeated scans of some cocaine users, after 10 days of cocaine withdrawal, continued to show decreased relative CBF of the prefrontal cortex. We hypothesise that some of the widespread defects in CBF in the cocaine users could reflect the effects of vasospasm in cerebral arteries exposed chronically to the sympathomimetic actions of cocaine.

Research Article
Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1988 

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