• 2-Deoxy-d-Glucose;
  • Cortisol;
  • Corticotrophin;
  • Alcoholism;
  • Hypothalamus

Background: The body adapts to diverse stressful stimuli with a response characterized by activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Chronic alcohol consumption can cause changes in the function of this neuroendocrine system. Although many studies have examined this phenomenon in drinking and recently sober alcoholics, few studies have examined HPA axis function in long-term sober alcoholics.

Methods: To characterize HPA axis function in long-term sober alcoholics, we used a challenge paradigm with 2-deoxy-d-glucose (2-DG). An infusion of 2-DG (a nonmetabolizable glucose analog) induces a well-characterized stress response. In a previous study, our laboratory found an exaggerated corticotropin and cortisol response in alcoholics abstinent 3 weeks; in this investigation we compared the effects of an infusion of 2-DG on 19 healthy volunteers and 20 community-living alcoholics who had been abstinent more than 6 months.

Results: In contrast to the previous study, long-term sober alcoholics did not have an exaggerated corticotropin and cortisol response after 2-DG.

Conclusions: Previously observed abnormalities in cortisol regulation in 3-week-sober alcoholics may be related to the acute effects of recent alcohol consumption and withdrawal. Future investigations into the metabolic function of alcoholics, particularly investigations involving the HPA system, should consider the possibility that normalization may not occur until long-term abstinence has been achieved.