Hormone responses to social stress in abstinent alcohol-dependent subjects and social drinkers with no history of alcohol dependence

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34 Scopus citations


Background: Previous studies have described blunted stress hormone responses after pharmacological activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in sober alcoholics. The aim of the present study was to compare ACTH, cortisol, and prolactin responses to a psychological stressor in abstinent alcohol-dependent subjects matched to healthy control subjects. Methods: Individuals who met DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for a history of alcohol dependence but not for other axis I disorders were included in the study (n = 18; mean duration of abstinence ± SEM, 3.5 ± 5.7 years). Social drinkers (n = 23) served as control subjects. The sober alcohol-dependent and control subjects were matched for demographic measures including levels of stress symptoms. All subjects underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), a laboratory-based psychological stressor. Prestress and poststress plasma ACTH, cortisol, and prolactin levels, as well as a self-report measure of anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), were obtained. Results: Nondepressed, abstinent alcoholics and control subjects did not differ with regard to age, racial composition, or baseline or poststress ratings of anxiety. Whereas ACTH and cortisol levels increased in response to the TSST, prolactin levels did not. Stress hormone response curves for the three hormones did not differ between the alcoholics and control subjects. Conclusions: When matched for levels of stress, a laboratory-based psychological stress test did not induce differential hormone response curves for abstinent alcoholics and control subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1133-1138
Number of pages6
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • ACTH
  • Alcoholism
  • Cortisol
  • Prolactin
  • Trier Social Stress Test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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