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Plasma Cortisol Levels Following Ethanol in Sons of Alcoholics and Controls

Marc A. Schuckit, MD; Eric Gold; Craig Risch, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1987;44(11):942-945. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1987.01800230022005.
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• We used the pattern of change in plasma cortisol level following ethanol challenges to help characterize differences in response to alcohol in sons of alcoholics and controls. Thirty healthy, drinking young adult sons of alcoholics were matched with 30 sons of nonalcoholics on demography, drug use, and alcohol use histories. Each was tested on three occasions, when he received, in random order, placebo, 0.75 mL/kg of ethanol, and 1.1 mL/kg of ethanol. Subsequent blood samples for cortisol determinations were obtained every 30 minutes over the next four hours. The sons of alcoholics, at higher risk for the future development of alcoholism, demonstrated lower cortisol levels after drinking. The data are consistent with our prior measures of self-reported feelings of intoxication and family group differences in ethanol-induced decrements in performance.


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