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The Importance of Glucocorticoids in AlcoholDependence and Neurotoxicity

Authors

  • A. K. Rose,

    1. From the Department of Psychology (AKR), University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK; Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Clinical Research, University of Bern (SGS), Murtenstrasse, Bern, Switzerland; Department of Psychology, Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, University of Kentucky (MAP), Lexington, KY; Section of Alcohol Research, National Addiction Centre, Division of Psychological Medicine and Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry (HJL), King’s College London, London, UK, and Departments of Basic Medical Sciences, Pharmacology and Mental Health and Addictive Behaviour, St George’s, University of London (HJL), Cranmer Terrace, London, UK.
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  • S. G. Shaw,

    1. From the Department of Psychology (AKR), University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK; Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Clinical Research, University of Bern (SGS), Murtenstrasse, Bern, Switzerland; Department of Psychology, Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, University of Kentucky (MAP), Lexington, KY; Section of Alcohol Research, National Addiction Centre, Division of Psychological Medicine and Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry (HJL), King’s College London, London, UK, and Departments of Basic Medical Sciences, Pharmacology and Mental Health and Addictive Behaviour, St George’s, University of London (HJL), Cranmer Terrace, London, UK.
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  • M. A. Prendergast,

    1. From the Department of Psychology (AKR), University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK; Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Clinical Research, University of Bern (SGS), Murtenstrasse, Bern, Switzerland; Department of Psychology, Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, University of Kentucky (MAP), Lexington, KY; Section of Alcohol Research, National Addiction Centre, Division of Psychological Medicine and Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry (HJL), King’s College London, London, UK, and Departments of Basic Medical Sciences, Pharmacology and Mental Health and Addictive Behaviour, St George’s, University of London (HJL), Cranmer Terrace, London, UK.
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  • H. J. Little

    1. From the Department of Psychology (AKR), University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK; Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Clinical Research, University of Bern (SGS), Murtenstrasse, Bern, Switzerland; Department of Psychology, Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, University of Kentucky (MAP), Lexington, KY; Section of Alcohol Research, National Addiction Centre, Division of Psychological Medicine and Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry (HJL), King’s College London, London, UK, and Departments of Basic Medical Sciences, Pharmacology and Mental Health and Addictive Behaviour, St George’s, University of London (HJL), Cranmer Terrace, London, UK.
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  • The majority of the studies described in this minireview were presented in a symposium at RSA in 2008.

Reprint requests: A. K. Rose, Department of Psychology, Eleanor Rathbone Building, Bedford Street South, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZA, UK; Fax: 44 (0) 151 794 6937; E-mail:Abi.Rose@liverpool.ac.uk

Abstract

Alterations in hypothalamo-pituitary adrenal (HPA) function have been described in alcoholics and in rodents after chronic alcohol consumption but the role of glucocorticoids in alcohol consumption, and the mechanisms involved, has received little attention until recently. Both alcohol consumption and withdrawal from chronic alcohol intake raise circulating glucocorticoid levels, and prolonged high concentrations of glucocorticoids are known to have detrimental effects on neuronal function and cognition. This minireview covers the ways in which glucocorticoids may be involved in drinking behavior, from social drinking to dependence, and the negative consequences of alcohol consumption seen during withdrawal which may have a detrimental effect on treatment outcome. Research shows prolonged increases in brain glucocorticoid concentrations and decreased brain glucocorticoid receptor availability (consistent with increased levels of endogenous ligand) after withdrawal from chronic alcohol treatment. Evidence suggests that increased glucocorticoid levels in the brain after chronic alcohol treatment are associated with the cognitive deficits seen during abstinence which impact on treatment efficacy and quality of life. Studies on organotypic cultures also demonstrate the importance of glucocorticoids in the neuropathological consequences of alcohol dependence.

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