Serotonergic mechanisms of cocaine effects in humans

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1995 May;119(2):179-85. doi: 10.1007/BF02246159.


The objective of this study was to investigate the role of serotonin (5-HT) in mediating the effects of cocaine in humans. To accomplish this, 12 subjects each participated in two randomized, double-blind test sessions separated by 1 week. In one session, subjects underwent acute depletion of the 5-HT amino acid precursor tryptophan (TRP), followed by a test dose of intranasal cocaine. In the other session, the cocaine test dose was preceded by sham depletion. Subject ratings of cocaine "high" were significantly lower following active TRP depletion than after the sham procedure. Subjects also showed an earlier but less sustained rise in self-rated nervousness during active TRP depletion. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that 5-HT may be involved in mediating the euphorigenic and modulating the anxiogenic effects of cocaine in humans, either directly or through actions on other (e.g., dopaminergic) systems.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects*
  • Affect / physiology
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Depression, Chemical
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Tryptophan / blood*
  • Tryptophan / metabolism


  • Serotonin
  • Tryptophan
  • Cocaine