Oral naltrexone reduces heavy drinking, but is less consistent as an abstinence promoter, whereas once-monthly extended-release naltrexone (XR-NTX) also maintains abstinence. The present study sought to determine if alcohol cue reactivity is attenuated by XR-NTX. Twenty-eight detoxified alcohol-dependent adult male and female volunteers received a single i.m. injection of either XR-NTX or placebo under double-blind conditions. An fMRI/cue reactivity procedure was conducted immediately before and two weeks after injection. At baseline, alcohol-related visual and olfactory cues elicited significant increases in orbital and cingulate gyri, inferior frontal and middle frontal gyri. Subsequently, brain activation was significantly altered in XR-NTX-treated individuals. These affected brain regions are associated with the integration of emotion, cognition, reward, punishment, and learning/memory, suggesting that XR-NTX attenuates the salience of alcohol-related cues. Such an effect on brain function may interrupt the processes associated with "slips" and relapse, which may account for XR-NTX's ability to maintain abstinence.
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