A role for dopamine in the processing of drug cues in heroin dependent patients

Ingmar H. A. Franken, Vincent M. Hendriks, Cornelis J. Stam, Wim van den Brink

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Drug and alcohol dependence are associated with enhanced attention for drug-related stimuli. This cognitive processing bias has been suggested to be related to craving and to represent one of the core mechanisms of addition. The present study tests the hypothesis that enhanced attention for heroin cues is mediated by the dopaminergic system using haloperidol as dopamine antagonist. In a double blind, randomized crossover design, 17 detoxified heroin dependent patients received a single oral dose of haloperidol 2 mg and placebo. Patients performed an Emotional Stroop Task to assess the cognitive processing of drug cues under both conditions. In addition, self-reported craving was assessed. In the haloperidol condition, patients performed better on the Emotional Stroop Task than in the placebo condition. However, no effect of haloperidol on subjective craving was found. These findings provide preliminary indications that attentional bias in heroin dependent humans is mediated by dopaminergic mechanisms. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. and ECNP. All rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-508
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004


  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Cognition/drug effects
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Cues
  • Dopamine Antagonists/pharmacology
  • Dopamine/physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Haloperidol/pharmacology
  • Heroin Dependence/psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reaction Time/drug effects
  • Reproducibility of Results

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