HPA axis reactivity to psychological stress among cocaine dependent individuals
Richards, Jessica Margaret
Lejuez, Carl W
Daughters, Stacey B
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Due to the high prevalence of illicit drug use and subsequent costs to society, researchers have focused on potential mechanisms underlying continued substance use and dependence. One mechanism of interest is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and its primary hormone, cortisol. Chronic substance use is associated with elevated basal cortisol concentrations and a blunted cortisol response to stress which has been shown to predict substance use outcomes. However, little is known about the specific conditions under which drug users display a dysregulated cortisol response to stress. Therefore, the current study compared HPA axis response to two different psychological stressors among a sample of cocaine dependent individuals. Results indicated no significant differences in cortisol response across conditions. Future researchers should conduct larger scale studies with carefully matched healthy non-drug using participants to determine whether the absence of a significant stress effect on cortisol functioning is specific to chronic cocaine use.