, 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

  • Michael E. Saladin
  • Kevin M. Gray
  • Aimee L. McRae-Clark
  • Steven D. LaRowe
  • Sharon D. Yeatts
  • Nathaniel L. Baker
  • Karen J. Hartwell
  • Kathleen T. Brady
Original Investigation



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.


Reconsolidation Retrieval Craving Cocaine dependence Cue exposure Human subjects 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael E. Saladin
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
  • Kevin M. Gray
    • 2
    • 3
  • Aimee L. McRae-Clark
    • 2
  • Steven D. LaRowe
    • 2
    • 5
  • Sharon D. Yeatts
    • 2
    • 4
  • Nathaniel L. Baker
    • 2
    • 4
  • Karen J. Hartwell
    • 2
  • Kathleen T. Brady
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Health Sciences and ResearchMedical University of South Carolina (MUSC)CharlestonUSA
  2. 2.Clinical Neuroscience Division, MUSCCharlestonUSA
  3. 3.Youth DivisionDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (MUSC)CharlestonUSA
  4. 4.Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (MUSC)CharlestonUSA
  5. 5.Substance Abuse Treatment CenterRalph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical CenterCharlestonUSA
  6. 6.Department of Health Sciences and Research, College of Health ProfessionsMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA

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