Relationship between urinary free cortisol and CSF opioid binding activity in depressed patients and normal volunteers

David R. Rubinow, Robert M. Post, David Pickar, Dieter Naber, James C. Ballenger, Philip W. Gold, William E. Bunney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We investigated the relationship between hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity, as measured by 24-hour mean urinary free cortisol (MUFC), and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) opioid activity in patients with major affective disorder and normal volunteers. Among depressed patients, but not normal volunteers, mean 24-hour urinary cortisol values were significantly correlated with CSF opioid activity measured by radioreceptor assay, but were not significantly correlated with β-endorphin immunoreactivity measured by radioimmunoassay. MUFC, as expected, was significantly higher in depressed patients than in normal volunteers. Mean values of CSF opioid activity and β-endorphin immunoreactivity did not differ significantly in the two groups. The positive opioid-MUFC correlation found in the depressed group appeared to depend on patients who were cortisol hypersecretors. These data, using relatively crude measures of cortisol and opioid activity, are suggestive of a relationship between these two systems, particularly under "activated" conditions such as those observed in depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-93
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1981
Externally publishedYes


  • cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cortisol
  • depression
  • opiates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • General Psychology


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