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Research Points to Hormone Levels and Stress as Indicators for Relapse in Abstaining Alcoholics

Posted in Alcoholism

Engaging in unhealthy levels of alcohol consumption can easily be detrimental. Even worse, when an individual withdraws from chronic drinking, problems can emerge that are different to resolve or have devastating consequences.

A recent Science Daily release explores how both drinking and withdrawal can raise circulating glucocorticoid levels. When these levels are heightened for a long period of time or at high concentrations, neuronal function and cognition can be forever affected.

Glucocorticoids have been shown to be associated with neurotoxicity during the period of abstinence after the individual withdrawals from alcohol dependency. In addition, the glucocorticoid receptor antagonism could offer a pharmacological option for a recovery.

When these hormones are prolonged and elevated, according to researchers involved in this review, they can damage or destroy neurons. This process can then create an increased vulnerability to other situations, causing even more damage. The result can be loss of proper memory function.

Deficits in neuronal function have also been linked with high levels of brain cortisol that is associated with stress. When high stress and an absence of alcohol exists for the alcohol dependent, the effects on the brain can be significant and even permanent.

The fact that the hormones remain elevated for such a long period of time point to why alcoholics can relapse after months of staying clear of any alcohol at all. Cues and triggers can still exist for the individuals, as well as heightened stress, anxiety, sleep disturbances and generally feeling unwell. When these elements are combined with the conditioned hormones, relapse can be inevitable.