After initial screening of 269 consecutive Psychiatry Service admissions suggested adrenal stimulation in alcoholics, 52 consecutive newly-admitted alcoholics were intensively studied in order to determine the extent of adrenal hyperactivity, how quickly it resolved and the factors associated with it. While 21% failed to show suppression of cortisol at either 0800 or 1600 hr the day following administration of dexamethasone (1 mg) at 2300 hr, no patient showed both clinical and biochemical evidence of alcoholic pseudo-Cushing's syndrome, and all patients suppressed normally eight days later. Analysis of a variety of variables, including several measures of recent alcohol consumption, alcohol withdrawal and depression failed to show significant association with nonsuppression. The DST should be interpreted cautiously in alcohol abusers during the first 10-14 days following admission. Persistent nonsuppression, however, is probably not due to alcohol abuse.