Psychoneuroendocrine effects of methadone maintenance

Mark L. Willenbring, John E. Morley, Dean D. Krahn, Gregory A. Carlson, Allen S. Levine, Rex B. Shafer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


A variety of neuroendocrine and psychiatric dysfunctions have been demonstrated in humans maintained on opiates, but both have not previously been examined in the same population. We performed a series of neuroendocrine challenge tests in men participating in a methadone maintenance clinic and in normal controls. Psychiatric diagnoses were made with DSM-III Criteria, using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule, and subjects also completed the Symptom Checklist. Our results in the methadone group suggest (a) near-maximal stimulation of prolactin secretion, with a blunted prolactin response to insulin hypoglycemia, (b) mild suppression of cortisol levels, but an exaggerated cortisol response to stimulation, (c) a delayed and inhibited insulin response to food ingestion with resulting mild hyperglycemia, (d) low body weight, but elevated calorie ingestion, and (e) inability to concentrated urine when dehydrated, which was partially corrected by administration of arginine vasopressin. Phobic disorder was associated with a lower prolactin response to both inhibitory and stimulatory challenges. Depression did not appear to be related to the increased cortisol response to stimulation. These results suggest several potentially fruitful areas for future investigation, including the prolactin system and anxiety disorders, nutrient ingestion and metabolism, and posterior pituitary function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-391
Number of pages21
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1989

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by Veterans Administration Research Funds. and Betty MacTaggart assisted with typing the manuscript.


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