Atrial Natriuretic Peptide, Arginine Vasopressin Peptide and Cortisol Serum Levels in Opiate-Dependent Patients
Preclinical studies suggest that chronic drug abuse profoundly alters stress-responsive systems. The best studied of the stress-responsive systems in humans is the hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Apart from cortisol, arginine vasopressin peptide (AVP), and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) are known to directly impact upon the HPA axis in addictive behavior. We investigated alterations in ANP, AVP and cortisol serum levels in opiate-dependent patients who received diacetylmorphine treatment within a structured opiate maintenance program. ANP serum levels were significantly increased in opiate-dependent patients as compared to healthy controls, whereas AVP and cortisol serum levels were reduced. The ANP, AVP and cortisol serum levels were not significantly associated with the psychometric dimensions of heroin craving. In conclusion, chronic drug abuse profoundly alters stress-responsive systems like the HPA axis. Alterations of AVP, ANP and cortisol appear to constitute an important component in the neurobiology of opiate-dependent patients.