New study identifies cortisol levels as an indicator of addiction recovery success

New study identifies cortisol levels as an indicator of addiction recovery success

by Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine

Ball-and-stick model of the molecule cortisol (hydrocortisone). Credit: public domain

A new study by Marshall University researchers Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine found that lower initial cortisol levels may serve as a predictor of retention in substance use disorder treatment programs.


The prospective observational study examined the salivary cortisol, stress exposure, childhood adverse experiences (ACEs), and treatment retention of men enrolled in abstinence-based residential alcohol and drug recovery programs. Their findings were published last month in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Cortisol levels reflect a physiological response to stress. In this case, researchers found that participants who stayed in the treatment program for less than 90 days had significantly higher initial cortisol levels than those who stayed in the program for more than 90 days. Furthermore, a Cox proportional risk model indicated that elevated salivary cortisol, marital/relationship status, and ACEs significantly correlated with the risks of early program withdrawal.

“Our hope is that these findings will lead to cortisol as a biomarker that can help clinicians determine which individuals need a more intensive therapeutic approach,” said Todd H. Davies, Ph.D., associate director of research and development at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and corresponding author of the study.

Taylor R. Maddox-Rooper, Kristiana Sklioutouskaya-Lopez, Trenton Sturgill, Caroline Fresch, Charles W. Clements II, MD; Rajan Lamichhane, Ph.D.; and Richard Egleton, Ph.D., were also co-authors of the paper. The research team also partnered with Recovery Point of West Virginia, a long-term residential recovery program based on the peer-driven model of recovery.

The research team, in collaboration with Recovery Point, is currently working on a larger follow-up study that aims to identify clinically significant levels of cortisol. This comprehensive study also includes a more representative population and examines the hormone oxytocin.

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More information:
Taylor R. Maddox-Rooper et al, Salivary cortisol intake evaluations, survey responses, and childhood adverse experiences are associated with recovery success in an abstinence-based treatment program for substance use disorders, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (2022). DOI: 10.1111/acer.14913

Provided by Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine

Quote: New Study Identifies Cortisol Level as Indicator of Addiction Recovery Success (2022, Sept. 23) Retrieved Sept. 23, 2022 from

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