Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in patients with pathological gambling and internet use disorder (2014)

Psychiatry Res. 2014 Dec 19. pii: S0165-1781(14)01005-1. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.11.078.

Geisel O1, Panneck P2, Hellweg R2, Wiedemann K3, Müller CA2.


Alterations in secretion of stress hormones within the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis have repeatedly been found in substance-related addictive disorders. It has been suggested that glucocorticoids might contribute to the development and maintenance of substance use disorders by facilitatory effects on behavioral responses to substances of abuse. The objective of this pilot study was to investigate HPA axis activity in patients with non-substance-related addictive disorders, i.e. pathological gambling and internet use disorder.

We measured plasma levels of copeptin, a vasopressin surrogate marker, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol in male patients with pathological gambling (n=14), internet use disorder (n=11) and matched healthy controls for pathological gambling (n=13) and internet use disorder (n=10).

Plasma levels of copeptin, ACTH and cortisol in patients with pathological gambling or internet use disorder did not differ among groups.

However, cortisol plasma levels correlated negatively with the severity of pathological gambling as measured by the PG-YBOCS. T

Together with our findings of increased serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in pathological gambling but not internet use disorder, these results suggest that the pathophysiology of pathological gambling shares some characteristics with substance-related addictive disorders on a neuroendocrinological level, whereas those similarities could not be observed in internet use disorder.


Adrenocorticotropic hormone; Cortisol; HPA axis; Internet use disorder; Pathological gambling; Vasopressin