Family history of alcoholism and hypothalamic opioidergic activity

Gary S. Wand, Deborah Mangold, Samer El Deiry, Mary E. McCaul, Donald Hoover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: This study was designed to assess whether nonalcoholic offspring from families with a high density of alcohol-dependent individuals have altered endogenous central nervous system opioid activity, Naloxone hydrochloride stimulates plasma cortisol by blocking opioidergic input on the corticotropin-releasing factor neuron, thereby providing a noninvasive method for measuring hypothalamic opioid tone. Methods: Forty-eight nonalcoholic subjects aged 18 to 25 years were enrolled in a protocol to measure endogenous opioid activity by inducing opioid receptor blockade with the receptor antagonist, naloxone. Twenty-six subjects were offspring from families with a high density of alcohol dependence and were designated as family history-positive subjects. Twenty-two subjects were biological offspring of nonalcohol-dependent parents and designated as family history- negative subjects. Subjects received naloxone hydrochloride (0, 125, and 375 μg/kg) in double-blind, randomized order. Serum cortisol levels were monitored. Results: Family history-negative subjects had a graded cortisol response to each dose of naloxone. In contrast, family history-positive subjects achieved a maximal cortisol response to the 125-μg/kg dose of naloxone hydrochloride with no further increase in cortisol levels observed- following the 375-μg/kg dose. Family history-negative subjects had a diminished cortisol response to the 125-μg/kg dose compared with the family history-positive subjects. Plasma naloxone concentrations did not differ between family history groups. Conclusions: Individuals from families with a high density of alcohol dependence are more sensitive to naloxone compared with offspring of nonalcohol-dependent parents. This implies that individuals with a family history of alcohol dependence have diminished endogenous hypothalamic opioid activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1114-1119
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of general psychiatry
Volume55
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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