Acute effects of cortisol on alcohol craving in alcohol use disorder

Soravia, Leila M.; De Quervain, D. J.-F. (October 2017). Acute effects of cortisol on alcohol craving in alcohol use disorder (Unpublished). In: WPA XVII WORLD CONGRESS OF PSYCHIATRY BERLIN 2017, 8 - 12 October 2017/ Addictive disorders. Berlin. 11.10.2017.

Background: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a severe and chronically relapsing disorder. Stress is known to increase craving and alcohol-taking behavior, but it is not known whether the stress hormone cortisol mediates these stress effects or whether cortisol may rather reduce craving, for example, by inhibiting the retrieval of addiction memory. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of cortisol administration on craving in abstinent patients with AUD during an abstinent-oriented inpatient treatment.
Methods: In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over design 46 abstinent patients with AUD were tested with two exposure sessions within two weeks. Cortisol (20 mg) or placebo was orally administered 1 hour before each exposure session. Psychological (craving, stress) and physiological (cortisol, heart rate) parameters were repeatedly measured during both test-days.
Results: Independent of cortisol, repeated in-vivo exposure to alcohol resulted in reduced craving. Thus, acute cortisol administration did not significantly reduce craving during the in-vivo exposure to alcohol. However, patients receiving cortisol at the first experimental day showed significantly reduced craving at the second experimental day one week later compared to the patients who received first placebo and then cortisol.
Conclusion: These findings are in line with previous studies in patients with anxiety disorders indicating that adding cortisol to in-vivo exposure enhances the consolidation of the habituation effect and therefore might enhance treatment outcome.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Translational Research Center

UniBE Contributor:

Soravia, Leila




Prof. Dr. Leila M. Soravia

Date Deposited:

06 Dec 2017 10:20

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:08


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