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High cortisol responders to stress show increased sedation to alcohol compared to low cortisol responders: An alcohol dose-response study

Journal article
Authors Sejla Brkic
Bo Söderpalm
Anna Söderpalm Gordh
Published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Volume 143
Pages 65-72
ISSN 0091-3057
Publication year 2016
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Pages 65-72
Language en
Keywords Alcohol, Stress, Social drinkers, Cortisol response, Subjective effects, TSST, ethanol-consumption, psychosocial stress, family-history, dependent, individuals, healthy-subjects, social stress, reactivity, corticosterone, humans, intoxication, Behavioral Sciences
Subject categories Clinical Medicine


Aims: The present study was designed to examine the relationship between high and low cortisol response to an acute stressful situation and the subjective effects after different doses of alcohol, in healthy social drinkers. Method: Sixty-four subjects (32 men and 32 women) participated in one laboratory session. They performed a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) immediately before consumption of either placebo or alcohol (0.2, 0.4 or 0.8 g/kg). Subjects in each dose group were then divided into high (HCR; n = 32) or low (LCR; n = 32) cortisol responders. Primary dependent measures were self-report questionnaires of mood. Results: The HCR reported increased ratings on Sedation on the Biphasic Alcohol Effects Scale (BAES) with increased dose in comparison with the LCR. This increase in sedation also correlated to the increase in cortisol levels. Conclusion: We conclude that a high cortisol response to stress modulates the subjective response to alcohol, dose-dependently. HCR subjects experience increased sedative effects of alcohol after consumption of higher doses of alcohol following stress compared to LCR subjects.

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