Cortisol May Increase Risk Of Relapse For Recovering Alcoholics

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have discovered that high levels of cortisol could increase the risk of relapse for recovering alcoholics. Cortisol, a hormone produced in the adrenal gland as a result of stress, is found in elevated levels both in alcoholics and those in recovery.

Study reveals stress hormone impacts on alcohol recovery

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that high levels of a stress hormone in recovering alcoholics could increase the risk of relapse.

The study showed that cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress, is found in high levels in chronic alcoholics, as well as those recovering from the condition. Researchers found that this could result in impaired memory, attention and decision-making functions, which could decrease the patient’s ability to engage with treatment.

Chronic alcoholism is a disabling addictive disorder, characterised by compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcohol despite the negative effects it has on health, relationships and social standing. Alcohol damages almost every organ of the body including the brain where it causes memory loss and impairs decision-making and attention span.

Cortisol plays an important role in the regulation of emotion, learning, attention, energy utilization, and the immune system. The research showed that high levels of this hormone are present in alcoholic patients and continue to be elevated during withdrawal from alcohol and after long periods of abstinence.

Dr Abi Rose (lead author of the review), in the School of Psychology, Health and Society at the University of Liverpool, said: “Both drinking and withdrawal from alcohol can affect cortisol function in humans. Cortisol dysfunction, including the high levels of cortisol observed during alcohol withdrawal, may contribute to the high rates of relapse reported in alcohol dependence, even after many months of abstinence. Drugs targeting the effects of cortisol in the brain might reduce the chances of relapse and reduce the cognitive impairments that interfere with treatment.”

Contact: Sarah Stamper
Source: University of Liverpool

Cortisol Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Stress hormone Cortisol may impact on alcohol recovery. Image: Gene Hunt. Flickr

2 Responses to Cortisol May Increase Risk Of Relapse For Recovering Alcoholics

  1. IanEdwards November 17, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Hello sarah,my name is Ian edwards and I work for CIC addictions Liverpool in alcohol misuse. I have just read your report on the link between cortisol and relapse in alcohol dependants. I always warn clients that during the recovery period they may experience an unexplained emotional urge to return to drinking.Triggers are many that can cause this but finding the exact reason is sometimes not found. The client gets frustrated to explain why as they feel nothing happened to rationally explain why they relapsed. I go through all the usual reasons why a relapse happened but sometimes I will never find the reason. Your findings might give me another option to explain to a client why they relapsed without a
    logical reason. If you could give me more info I would be interested in gaining more of an insight into the possible
    links between cortisol and relapse problems.

    Regards Ian Edwards

    MOB; 07983228564

  2. Shreddi April 11, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I just watched a show explaining the effects of Cortisol and it really made sense. I have a bad drinking issue and the symptoms defined on the show were exactly same. I look up articles and found this. Next search is any foods, exsersize, etc. to help withdrawals and lower my levels. Thanks for researching this topic.

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