Adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol responses to corticotropin-releasing hormone: changes in panic disorder and effects of alprazolam treatment

Biol Psychiatry. 1997 Jan 1;41(1):76-85. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(95)00578-1.


This study applied the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulation test to patients with panic disorder, before and during treatment with alprazolam, and to control subjects. In contrast to some, but not all prior studies, untreated, nondepressed panic disorder patients failed to show blunted adrenocorticotropic hormone or cortisol responses to CRH. In fact, the responses were subtly enhanced in that they were more rapid than those of controls. After 12 weeks of alprazolam treatment, repeat testing gave results that were indistinguishable from those of controls. Inconsistency among reports of CRH testing in panic disorder may be related to interactions among illness mechanisms, concurrent subthreshold depressive symptoms, the chronic stress of the illness, and hyperresponsiveness of panic patients to the acute stress of experimental manipulations. Pretreatment abnormalities in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function appear to resolve with alprazolam treatment. Preliminary observations suggest that pretreatment dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system may predict a more difficult or less satisfactory treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood*
  • Adult
  • Agoraphobia / blood
  • Agoraphobia / drug therapy*
  • Agoraphobia / psychology
  • Alprazolam / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / drug effects
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Panic Disorder / blood
  • Panic Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Panic Disorder / psychology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / drug effects
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Alprazolam