, Volume 228, Issue 4, pp 623-631
Date: 06 Apr 2013

Effect of oxytocin on craving and stress response in marijuana-dependent individuals: a pilot study

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Stress has been shown to be a significant factor in the maintenance of marijuana use. Oxytocin is a hypothalamic neuropeptide that has been shown to moderate behavioral responding to stress as well as play a role in the neuroadaptations that occur as a consequence of long-term drug use.


The current study evaluated the impact of oxytocin pretreatment on craving, stress, and anxiety responses following a psychosocial stress task in marijuana-dependent individuals.


In a laboratory setting, baseline measurements of craving (assessed using the Marijuana Craving Questionnaire; MCQ), salivary cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), stress, and anxiety were collected in 16 participants (age 19–40) meeting DSM-IV criteria for marijuana dependence. Participants were then administered either oxytocin 40 IU (n = 8) or placebo (n = 8) nasal spray prior to completion of the Trier Social Stress Task (TSST). Measurements were repeated pre-TSST, immediately post-TSST, and 5-, 35-, and 60-min post-TSST.


Oxytocin reduced both MCQ total score and DHEA levels from before to after the TSST. It also decreased anxiety, but not subjective stress ratings.


Although preliminary, these results suggest that oxytocin may play a role in the amelioration of stress-induced reactivity and craving in marijuana-dependent individuals.