A new study by researchers at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine found that lower baseline cortisol levels may serve as a predictor of retention in treatment programs for substance use disorders.
The prospective observational study evaluated salivary cortisol, stress exposure, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and treatment retention in men enrolled in abstinence-based, inpatient alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs. Their findings were published in last month Alcoholism: Clinical and experimental research, the scientific journal on alcohol abuse and treatment for the Research Society on Alcoholism and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism.
Cortisol levels reflect a physiological response to stress. In this case, the researchers found that participants who stayed on the treatment program for less than 90 days had significantly higher baseline cortisol levels than those who stayed on the program for more than 90 days. In addition, a Cox proportional hazards model showed that increased salivary cortisol, increased family/relationship status, and increased ACE score were significantly correlated with the risks of early discontinuation of the program.
“Our hope is that these results will lead to cortisol as a biomarker that can help clinicians identify which individuals may need a more intensive therapeutic approach,” said Todd H. Davies, Ph.D., associate director of research and development at Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and corresponding author of the study.
Taylor R. Maddox-Rooper, Kristiana Sklioutouskaya-Lopez, Trenton Sturgill, Caroline Fresch, Charles W. Clements II, MD; Rajan Lamichhane, Ph.D.; and Richard Egleton, Ph.D., also served as co-authors on the article. The research team also worked with Recovery Point of West Virginia, a long-term home rehabilitation program based on the peer-driven recovery model.
The research team, in collaboration with Recovery Point, is currently conducting a larger follow-up study attempting to identify clinically significant levels of cortisol. This expanded study also includes a more representative population and examines the hormone oxytocin.
This work is supported by a rural grant from the Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health at Marshall University through the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
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