Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 211–228

The Relationship of Appetitive, Reproductive and Posterior Pituitary Hormones to Alcoholism and Craving in Humans

  • George A. Kenna
  • Robert M. Swift
  • Thomas Hillemacher
  • Lorenzo Leggio
Review

DOI: 10.1007/s11065-012-9209-y

Cite this article as:
Kenna, G.A., Swift, R.M., Hillemacher, T. et al. Neuropsychol Rev (2012) 22: 211. doi:10.1007/s11065-012-9209-y

Abstract

A significant challenge for understanding alcoholism lies in discovering why some, but not other individuals, become dependent on alcohol. Genetic, environmental, cultural, developmental, and neurobiological influences are recognized as essential factors underlying a person's risk for becoming alcohol dependent (AD); however, the neurobiological processes that trigger this vulnerability are still poorly understood. Hormones are important in the regulation of many functions and several hormones are strongly associated with alcohol use. While medical consequences are important, the primary focus of this review is on the underlying confluence of appetitive/feeding, reproductive and posterior pituitary hormones associated with distinct phases of alcoholism or assessed by alcohol craving in humans. While these hormones are of diverse origin, the involvement with alcoholism by these hormone systems is unmistakable, and demonstrates the complexity of interactions with alcohol and the difficulty of successfully pursuing effective treatments. Whether alcohol associated changes in the activity of certain hormones are the result of alcohol use or are the result of an underlying predisposition for alcoholism, or a combination of both, is currently of great scientific interest. The evidence we present in this review suggests that appetitive hormones may be markers as they appear involved in alcohol dependence and craving, that reproductive hormones provide an example of the consequences of drinking and are affected by alcohol, and that posterior pituitary hormones have potential for being targets for treatment. A better understanding of the nature of these associations may contribute to diagnosing and more comprehensively treating alcoholism. Pharmacotherapies that take advantage of our new understanding of hormones, their receptors, or their potential relationship to craving may shed light on the treatment of this disorder.

Keywords

HormonesNeuroendocrinologyAlcohol dependenceAlcoholismAppetitivePituitaryGenetics

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • George A. Kenna
    • 1
  • Robert M. Swift
    • 1
  • Thomas Hillemacher
    • 2
  • Lorenzo Leggio
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Center for Addiction Research (CARe), Department of Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry and PsychotherapyHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany
  3. 3.Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology, Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and AlcoholismNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  4. 4.Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Drug AbuseNational Institutes of HealthBaltimoreUSA