Effects of naltrexone on cortisol levels in heavy drinkers Journal Articles uri icon

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  • The primary objectives of this study were to: (a) examine the neuroendocrine effects of naltrexone vs. placebo by comparing serum cortisol levels; and (b) test the biobehavioral correlates of naltrexone-induced changes in cortisol. Non-treatment seeking heavy drinkers (n=37) completed two intravenous alcohol administrations, one after naltrexone (50 mg) and one after placebo. Cortisol levels were measured at baseline and after alcohol intake (BrAC=0.06 g/dl) on both sessions, as were subjective responses to alcohol. Analyses revealed that naltrexone significantly raised overall cortisol levels compared to placebo. Cortisol levels decreased during alcohol administration and a stronger decrease was observed in the naltrexone condition. Cortisol levels were, in turn, inversely related to some of alcohol's the reinforcing effects (i.e., alcohol 'high,' vigor) and positively associated with some of its unpleasant effects (i.e., sedation and subjective intoxication). These results suggest that naltrexone alters cortisol levels in heavy drinkers and that its effects on subjective responses to alcohol may be related, in part, to naltrexone's ability to activate the HPA-axis.


  • Ray, Lara A
  • MacKillop, James
  • Leggio, Lorenzo
  • Morgan, Marilee
  • Hutchison, Kent E

publication date

  • February 2009