Effects of disulfiram on positron emission tomography and neuropsychological studies in severe chronic alcoholism

Sid Gilman, Kenneth M. Adams, Doug Johnson-Greene, Robert A. Koeppe, Larry Junck, Karen J. Kluin, Susan Martorello, Mary Heumann, Elizabeth Hill

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20 Scopus citations


Disulfiram is an aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor that is widely used as an adjunctive agent in the treatment of patients with severe chronic alcoholism. Recent positron emission tomography (PET) studies of local cerebral metabolic rates for glucose (ICMRglc) and benzodiazepine receptor binding in alcoholic patients have shown regional cerebral abnormalities; however, some of the patients were studied while receiving disulfiram, which could influence the biochemical processes under investigation. In a retrospective investigation, we examined the influence of disulfiram administration on the results of PET studies of ICMRglc and benzodiazepine receptor binding and neuropsychological tests of cognition and executive function in patients with severe chronic alcoholism. [18F]Fluorodeoxyglucose was used to measure ICMRglc in 48 male patients, including 11 receiving and 37 not receiving disulfiram in therapeutic doses. [11C]Flumazenil was used to measure benzodiazepine receptor binding in 17 male patients, including 3 receiving and 14 not receiving disulfiram. All patients studied with FMZ were also examined with fluorodeoxyglucose. PET studies of ICMRglc revealed significantly decreased global values in the patients receiving disulfiram compared with those not receiving disulfiram. PET studies of benzodiazepine receptor binding revealed decreased flumazenil influx and distribution volume in patients receiving disulfiram. The neuropsychological tests demonstrated no differences between the two groups of subjects. The findings suggest that disulfiram may influence the results of PET studies of glucose metabolism end benzodiazepine receptor binding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1456-1461
Number of pages6
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcoholism
  • Disulfiram
  • Flumazenil
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose
  • Positron Emission Tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology


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