Experimental evidence suggests that components of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the endogenous opioid system, such as beta-endorphin (beta-END), influence alcohol consumption, whereas chronic alcohol abuse alters the activity of both systems.
In addition, sex and age differences have been found in HPA axis activity under basal conditions in response to stress and acute alcohol problems. The aim of the present studies was to examine the hypothesis that chronic alcohol abuse alters HPA axis and pituitary-beta-END activity as a function of severity of alcohol abuse, sex, and age.
Results: Plasma ACTH and beta-END levels were significantly lower in women than in men of all ages and drinking categories. Plasma cortisol levels were higher in 18- to 29-year-old female subjects than in 18- to 29-year-old male subjects. Plasma ACTH and beta-END levels were lower, whereas plasma cortisol levels were higher in heavy drinkers than in nondrinkers. This decrease in plasma ACTH and beta-END levels with heavy drinking was more pronounced in female subjects in the 30-44 and 45-60 age groups than in male subjects.
Found at Alkohol adé (german)