Cocaine has been shown to activate the sympathoadrenal system in both animal and human studies. Controlled human studies have found inconclusive results regarding whether acute cocaine treatment elevates plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether commonly abused doses of cocaine increase plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations in humans, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Five male cocaine users were given an intravenous injection of 0.46 mg/kg dose of cocaine or placebo, on two consecutive days. Plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations were significantly increased in response to cocaine injection compared to placebo. Peak plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations were reached 3 and 12 min after cocaine injection, respectively. While changes in epinephrine levels following cocaine were correlated with systolic blood pressure and heart rate changes, changes in plasma norepinephrine were correlated with diastolic blood pressure and heart rate changes following cocaine administration. These results suggest that plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine can be used as a measure for cocaine induced sympathoadrenal system activation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by grants from National Institute on Drug Abuse (P-50 DA09259) and from the National Center for Research Resources (MO1-RR00400). We would like to thank Elizabeth Oseid, from the laboratory of Dr. Paul Robertson at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute, for doing the catecholamine assays, Susan Dudish-Poulsen for her assistance in preparing the manuscript and GCRC nursing staff for their technical assistance.