Stress Has Hormonal Link To Alcohol, Drug Abuse 

Stress Has Hormonal Link To Alcohol, Drug Abuse 
Posted by FoM on September 02, 2001 at 21:54:50 PT
By Steven Stocker, Special To The Washington Post
Source: Washington Post
Lawrence Kudlow is an economist, contributing editor of National Review magazine and frequent guest on "The McLaughlin Group," where he often argues in favor of deep tax cuts. He is also a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict.Kudlow attributes his bout with drug and alcohol abuse partly to the pressure he felt when he was chief economist and senior managing director of Bear, Stearns & Co., a Wall Street investment firm. 
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kudlow followed an exhausting schedule involving writing reports, traveling and giving speeches. Although he had started drinking regularly in the late 1970s, his drinking increased and he began bingeing on cocaine.Kudlow's story is not unusual. Research indicates that long-term stress caused by work, family or combat can lead people to use alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland found that full-time nurses who work in a high-strain environment are 1 1/2 times as likely to use cocaine, marijuana and other psychoactive drugs as nurses who work in a low-strain environment.A high-strain environment was defined as one in which the psychological or physical demands of the job were high while the amount of control a nurse was allowed to have in the job was low.Stress also can promote drug intake by animals. Physical stressors such as mild, intermittent foot shocks or repeated tail pinches increase the rate at which animals press a bar to receive an intravenous infusion of cocaine or amphetamine. Psychological stressors, such as being the object of an aggressive attack or witnessing another animal being subjected to repeated foot shocks, have the same effect.Stress promotes the intake of addictive drugs by causing the release of hormones called glucocorticoids, according to neuroscientist Pier Vincenzo Piazza of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research. These hormones are released from the adrenal glands, which sit like little hats on top of the kidneys."Glucocorticoids were believed for a long time to mediate the aversive effects of stress, so they were considered 'bad' hormones," Piazza said. "However, there is no real evidence for that. All the evidence indicates that glucocorticoids are experienced by the subject more like rewarding hormones than aversive ones."Glucocorticoids stimulate the same reward pathway in the brain that is stimulated by drugs of abuse, Piazza said. This pathway consists of nerve cells that release the messenger chemical dopamine. This dopamine release often occurs in response to pleasurable events, such as eating tasty food or seeing an appealing sexual partner, but drugs of abuse and glucocorticoids can provoke this release as well.Just as with drugs of abuse, animals will press a bar to receive an infusion of a glucocorticoid, showing that these hormones are indeed rewarding. People also sometimes find them rewarding, as shown by the fact that patients occasionally abuse synthetic glucocorticoids, such as cortisone.The reason that glucocorticoids are rewarding is to counter the aversive effects of stress, thereby allowing an animal to react to a threat by doing something other than just running away, according to Piazza."If the only reactions to threatening and aversive stimuli was avoidance and flight, individuals would be severely limited in how they adapt to environments," he said. By activating brain sites of reward, glucocorticoids can decrease or even totally suppress the tendency to flee and increase the tendency to try some other approach, such as fighting or putting an obstacle in the way of the aggressor.The problem in this day and age of psychoactive, rewarding drugs is that high levels of glucocorticoids can sensitize the brain's reward pathway to these drugs. As a result, when a person takes cocaine, amphetamine or some other drug of abuse, the drug provokes more dopamine release in the reward pathway, making the effect of the drug more pleasurable than it would be otherwise.People who produce large quantities of glucocorticoids in response to stress could be particularly prone to abusing drugs because the glucocorticoids make their reward pathways hypersensitive to any drugs of abuse they might take, Piazza said.In studies with rats, he found that rodents that secrete more corticosterone, the principal glucocorticoid in rats, also learn to stick their nose through a hole in their cage to receive intravenous infusions of amphetamine or cocaine at lower doses than rats that secrete less corticosterone. The fact that the high corticosterone producers make the mental connection between nose pokes and drug infusion at lower drug doses indicates that they find these drugs more rewarding.Individuals could be high glucocorticoid producers because of genes or because of chronic stress, Piazza said. This includes stress occurring in infancy or even prenatally. In one study, his group found that placing mother rats during their last week of pregnancy in narrow plastic cylinders three times a day caused their offspring to grow into adults that produced more corticosterone during stress than rats that had not been prenatally stressed. The prenatally stressed rats were also regular drug fiends, sticking their nose through the cage hole to receive amphetamine infusions about 2 1/2 times more than rats that had experienced a more relaxing time in the womb.In terms of promoting drug intake, the key component in stress appears to be its ability to be controlled, according to pharmacologist Nicholas Goeders of Louisiana State University. He and colleague Glenn Guerin demonstrated this in a study involving rats that received occasional foot shocks while pressing a bar to receive food pellets.The study involved three groups of rats. The first group received a food pellet if they pressed the bar 10 times but a foot shock if they pressed the bar an average of 15 times, which gave them some control over the foot shocks. The second group also received a food pellet if they pressed the bar 10 times but they had no control over their foot shocks, receiving them at the same instant their compatriots in the first group received them. And the third group pressed the bar for food pellets but received no foot shocks.When the rats were later tested to see how much they would press a bar to receive different doses of cocaine, the rats in the second group, who had no control over their foot shocks, were found to be the most sensitive to the rewarding effects of cocaine. These rats pressed the bar more often for cocaine infusions and did so at lower doses of cocaine.Goeders thinks that this study has important implications for people."If certain individuals are more sensitive to stress, especially if they are in an environment where they feel that they have inadequate control over this stress, then these individuals may be more likely to use cocaine and other drugs of abuse," said Goeders. "This could occur whether the person is an executive in a high-level stress position or a teenager living in a low-income, inner-city environment with no hope of ever advancing."Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Steven Stocker, Special To The Washington PostPublished: Monday, September 3, 2001; Page A09Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:National Review Governments Try and Fail To Stem Drugs Rate High for Pilot Program in O.C.
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Comment #1 posted by Justintime on September 03, 2001 at 05:34:43 PT
drug companies
Could this study or studies like this be in the hands of pharmaceutical companies that manufacture Ritalin or Prozac? "...or some other drug of abuse..."
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