Serum cortisol secretion during heroin abstinence is elevated only nocturnally

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2008;34(3):321-8. doi: 10.1080/00952990802013664.


Several studies indicate abnormalities in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) during acute opiate withdrawal, but protracted withdrawal has gotten less study. The current study further characterized the 24-hour time course of plasma cortisol levels in heroin-dependent individuals who were abstinent for 10-15 days, which is beyond the 5 days of acute withdrawal, compared to demographically matched healthy controls using samples collected every 3 hours over 24 hours and assessed with radioimmunoassay (RIA). The abstinent heroin-dependent participants had significantly higher plasma cortisol levels nocturnally suggesting a loss of diurnal variation in these heroin subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Heroin Dependence / metabolism*
  • Heroin Dependence / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Time Factors


  • Hydrocortisone