Adrenocorticotropin responses to naloxone in sons of alcohol-dependent men

Gary S. Wand, Deborah Mangold, Ali Mahmood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The endogenous opioid system is part of a neural circuitry functionally related to alcohol-seeking behaviors. A family history of alcoholism is the strongest predictor of future development of alcohol dependence. This study was designed to evaluate ACTH responses to opioid receptor blockade as a function of family history for alcohol dependence. The nonselective opioid antagonist naloxone stimulates ACTH secretion by blocking opioidergic input on paraventricular corticotropin-releasing factor neurons, thereby providing a methodology for comparing hypothalamic opioid tone between study groups. Sixty nonalcoholic subjects, aged 18-25 yr, were enrolled in a protocol to measure the ACTH response to naloxone. Thirty-two subjects were offspring from families with a high density of alcohol dependence and were designated as family history-positive subjects. Twenty-eight subjects were offspring of nonalcohol-dependent parents and were designated family history-negative subjects. Subjects received naloxone (125 μg/kg) or placebo (0.9% saline) in double blind, randomized order. Plasma ACTH was monitored. Family history- positive men had increased ACTH response to naloxone compared to 1) family history-positive women, 2) family history-negative men, and 3) family history-negative women. Despite differences in plasma ACTH levels after naloxone administration, plasma naloxone concentrations did not differ between study groups. This finding suggests that nonalcoholic male offspring of alcohol-dependent men have altered endogenous opioid activity directed at hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing factor neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-68
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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