Scripps researchers link stress hormone, alcoholism


Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla have discovered a hormone produced by the body during periods of stress that is linked to alcohol dependence in animals, it was announced Monday.

Chemically blocking the hormone, called the corticotropin releasing factor, or CRF, also shut off the signs and symptoms of addiction — a finding that could lead to the development of a drug treatment for substance abuse, according to Scripps.

“Our study explored what we call in the field ‘the dark side’ of alcohol addiction,” said Marisa Roberto, an assistant professor at The Scripps Research Institute, who led the research.

“That’s the compulsion to drink, not because it is pleasurable, which has been the focus of much previous research, but because it relieves the anxiety generated by abstinence and the stressful effects of withdrawal,” she said.

The study confirmed the previously implicated role of CRF in alcohol addition, but also demonstrated in rats that the hormone can be blocked on a long-term basis to alleviate the symptoms of alcohol dependence.

The research will appear in the upcoming edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry.