Accid Anal Prev 2008 Jan; 40(1):246-53.
Cortisol is a stress hormone mediated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and a psychobiological marker of genetic risk for alcoholism and other high-risk behavioural characteristics.
In previous work with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) recidivists, we uncovered a significant inverse relationship between the frequency of past DUI convictions and salivary cortisol, whose strength surpassed those observed between DUI frequency and measures of alcohol abuse and other DUI-related characteristics. This finding emerged using a methodology not specifically contrived to test this relationship.
The goals of this follow-up study were to (a) examine if a standardized stress-induction protocol would produce a significant inverse relationship between cortisol response and number of DUI offences; and (b) clarify whether HPA axis dysregulation could be linked to particular DUI-related behavioural correlates, such as alcohol use severity, sensation seeking, and antisocial features.
Results indicated an inverse relationship between DUI frequency and cortisol response , as well as a lower cortisol response in DUI offenders than the comparison group. Finally, for recidivists, hierarchical regression analyses indicated that experience seeking , followed by number of cigarettes smoked daily , combined to explain 35% of the variance in cortisol.
These findings indicate that severe recidivism may have psychobiological underpinnings, and that HPA axis dysregulation appears to be a mechanism common to high-risk behaviours including DUI recidivism, sensation seeking, and cigarette smoking.
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