, Volume 226, Issue 4, pp 721–737

A double blind, placebo-controlled study of the effects of post-retrieval propranolol on reconsolidation of memory for craving and cue reactivity in cocaine dependent humans


    • Department of Health Sciences and ResearchMedical University of South Carolina (MUSC)
    • Clinical Neuroscience Division, MUSC
    • Department of Health Sciences and Research, College of Health ProfessionsMedical University of South Carolina
  • Kevin M. Gray
    • Clinical Neuroscience Division, MUSC
    • Youth DivisionDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (MUSC)
  • Aimee L. McRae-Clark
    • Clinical Neuroscience Division, MUSC
  • Steven D. LaRowe
    • Clinical Neuroscience Division, MUSC
    • Substance Abuse Treatment CenterRalph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center
  • Sharon D. Yeatts
    • Clinical Neuroscience Division, MUSC
    • Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (MUSC)
  • Nathaniel L. Baker
    • Clinical Neuroscience Division, MUSC
    • Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (MUSC)
  • Karen J. Hartwell
    • Clinical Neuroscience Division, MUSC
  • Kathleen T. Brady
    • Clinical Neuroscience Division, MUSC
Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-013-3039-3

Cite this article as:
Saladin, M.E., Gray, K.M., McRae-Clark, A.L. et al. Psychopharmacology (2013) 226: 721. doi:10.1007/s00213-013-3039-3



This study examined the effects of propranolol vs. placebo, administered immediately after a “retrieval” session of cocaine cue exposure (CCE), on craving and physiological responses occurring 24 h later during a subsequent “test” session of CCE. It was hypothesized that compared to placebo-treated cocaine-dependent (CD) individuals, propranolol-treated CD individuals would evidence attenuated craving and physiological reactivity during the test session. Secondarily, it was expected that group differences identified in the test session would be evident at a 1-week follow-up CCE session. Exploratory analyses of treatment effects on cocaine use were also performed at follow-up.


CD participants received either 40 mg propranolol or placebo immediately following a “retrieval” CCE session. The next day, participants received a “test” session of CCE that was identical to the “retrieval” session except no medication was administered. Participants underwent a “follow-up” CCE session 1 week later. Craving and other reactivity measures were obtained at multiple time points during the CCE sessions.


Propranolol- vs. placebo-treated participants evidenced significantly greater attenuation of craving and cardiovascular reactivity during the test session. Analysis of the follow-up CCE session data did not reveal any group differences. Although there was no evidence of treatment effects on cocaine use during follow-up, this study was insufficiently powered to rigorously evaluate differential cocaine use.


This double-blind, placebo-controlled laboratory study provides the first evidence that propranolol administration following CCE may modulate memories for learning processes that subserve cocaine craving/cue reactivity in CD humans. Alternative interpretations of the findings were considered, and implications of the results for treatment were noted.


ReconsolidationRetrievalCravingCocaine dependenceCue exposureHuman subjects

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013