The Stress Hormone Drug Cortisol Could Reduce Cravings for Heroin Addicts

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So we’ve heard about drugs like Noloxone which can be very beneficial in preventing an opioid overdose from heroin, for instance, but it’s pretty big news when we hear about a drug that could significantly reduce cravings for the highly addictive substance. Here’s the thing though, it isn’t a new drug, but none other than Cortisol which is a stress hormone.

“Cortisol could be useful in treating addiction. At this point, however, the present study is a proof of concept that cortisol has an influence on craving. A potential clinical relevance has to be tested in further studies,” co–lead investigator Dominique de Quervain, MD, director of the Division of Cognitive Neuroscience, at the University of Basel, in Switzerland.

The study itself tested cortisol on heroin cravings in a double blind study where a placebo was administered as well as the cortisol itself. The study involved 29 heroin addicted adults and were given a 20mg dose of cortisol 105 minutes before receiving a dose of heroin while others were given the placebo. The cortisol cut cravings by 25% compared to the placebo group based on reports from the patients who received the dose. The results, while promising, also showed that those with the reduced cravings were dependent on a relatively low amount of heroin. Those who rely on a higher dose saw less encouraging results, which lead those involved in the research to contemplate giving a higher dose of cortisol to those heavier addicts that didn’t respond as well, but at the present time the researchers are not aware if that would work. Certain side-effects commonly associated with heroin use like anxiety and anger were not reduced by the cortisol.

“We plan studies to examine whether cortisol can help patients reduce their heroin dosage or remain abstinent from heroin for longer,” first author and co–lead investigator Marc Walter, PhD, chief physician at the Psychiatric University Clinics (UPK) Basel.

The study, while small, has shown promising results that could one day lead to a better medical approach to helping heroin addicts cut back and hopefully end their addiction. Is cortisol the answer? Perhaps, but it will require many more studies of varying sizes and focuses to determine whether or not this treatment could have a significant benefit for those addicted to heroin. It is, however, a step in the right direction that many doctors and researchers worldwide should pay attention to if they hope to one day offer a concrete medical treatment for those addicts seeking to quit.

 

 

VIA:MEDSCAPE

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Sobriety Foundation

The Stress Hormone Drug Cortisol Could Reduce Cravings for Heroin Addicts

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