Reregulation of cortisol levels and sleep in patients with prescription opioid use disorder during long-term residential treatment

Dahlia Mukherjee, Dean M. Stankoski, Sarah E. Tilden, Andrew S. Huhn, Edward O. Bixler, Lan Kong, Roger E. Meyer, Erin Deneke, Christopher S. Freet, Scott C. Bunce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: Research has demonstrated that hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function and sleep patterns are dysregulated in patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder (OUD). It is unclear whether and/or when cortisol and sleep might re-regulate over time, and, whether re-regulation is associated with abstinence following discharge from residential treatment. The current study evaluated changes in sleep and basal cortisol levels in prescription OUD patients in residential treatment, and the association between these measures and treatment outcome following discharge. Method: As part of a larger study, 55 participants with prescription OUD provided two days of salivary cortisol samples and 12 consecutive nights of sleep actigraphy between days 19–30 of residential treatment (Time Point 1; TP1). Thirteen of the original 55 participants remained in residence and repeated the measures between days 60–72 (Time Point 2; TP2). Thirty-seven healthy controls (HC) provided baseline measures (TP1) of salivary cortisol and sleep. Treatment outcome data, abstinence vs relapse, were established at 120 days following discharge. Results: Prescription OUD patients had higher cortisol levels and lower total sleep time (TST) than HC at TP1. At TP2, TST and cortisol levels no longer differed from HCs in the subgroup of patients who remained abstinent following discharge after TP2. Individuals whose cortisol and TST did not change from TP1 to TP2 were more likely to relapse following discharge from residential treatment. Conclusion: Re-regulation of TST and cortisol levels while in residential treatment was associated with better treatment outcome following discharge for prescription OUD patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108931
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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