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Stress and the HPA Axis: Role of Glucocorticoids in Alcohol Dependence

Stress, generally defined as any stimulus that disrupts the body’s internal balance (i.e., physiological homeostasis), has long been suggested to be an important correlate of uncontrolled alcohol consumption or relapse to drinking following a period of abstinence. Large epidemiological studies have reported that a variety of stressors are associated with increased alcohol consumption and binge...

Circadian Genes, the Stress Axis, and Alcoholism

Alcohol abuse and dependence are estimated to affect 1 in 8 adults in the United States and several hundred million people worldwide (Grant et al. 2004). To define at-risk populations and develop better treatments, it is important to further identify the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to alcohol addiction. Recent evidence suggests that the body’s internal system that helps...

Neural Pathways of Stress Integration: Relevance to Alcohol Abuse

Adaptation in the face of physical or psychological adversity is required for the survival, health, and well-being of all organisms. Adverse events, often denoted as “stressors,” initiate a diverse physiological response from multiple sources, including activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis.1 The HPA axis is responsible for the glucocorticoid component of the stress response...

Effects of Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal on Stress Responsiveness and Alcohol Consumption

Although stress is known to be an important contributing factor to alcohol abuse and alcoholism, the interaction between stress and alcohol drinking behavior, as well as the mechanisms underlying this interaction in the context of dependence are complex and not well understood. On the one hand, alcohol is an effective anxiety-reducing agent (i.e., anxiolytic). Hence, motivation for drinking may be...

The Endocrine System and Alcohol Drinking in Females

Sexually dimorphic effects of alcohol exposure throughout life have been documented in clinical and preclinical studies. In the past, rates of alcohol use disorder (AUD) were higher in men than in women, but over the past 10 years, the difference between sexes in prevalence of AUD and binge drinking has narrowed. Recent evidence adds to historical data regarding the influence of sex steroids on...

Common Biological Mechanisms of Alcohol Use Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are highly comorbid. Although recent clinical studies provide some understanding of biological and subsequent behavioral changes that define each of these disorders, the neurobiological basis of interactions between PTSD and AUD has not been well-understood. In this review, we summarize the relevant animal models that parallel...

Pathophysiology of the Effects of Alcohol Abuse on the Endocrine System

Alcohol can permeate virtually every organ and tissue in the body, resulting in tissue injury and organ dysfunction. Considerable evidence indicates that alcohol abuse results in clinical abnormalities of one of the body’s most important systems, the endocrine system. This system ensures proper communication between various organs, also interfacing with the immune and nervous systems, and is...

Early Life Stress as a Predictor of Co-Occurring Alcohol Use Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

During the critical developmental periods of childhood when neural plasticity is high, exposure to early life stress (ELS) or trauma may lead to enduring changes in physiological stress systems and enhanced vulnerability for psychopathological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) in adulthood. Clinical and preclinical studies have sought to...

Treatment of Alcohol Dependence With Drug Antagonists of the Stress Response

Although alcohol dependence affects 4 percent of the adult population and is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2009), fewer than 15 percent of people with alcoholism receive treatment (Hasin et al. 2007). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM–IV–TR) ...