Do stimulants increase cortisol? (yes or no)


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Page last updated: 24/09/2022

Do stimulants increase cortisol? (yes or no)

In this article, we will answer the question, do stimulants increase cortisol or not.

Think of cortisol as the built-in warning device of nature. It’s the body’s main hormone for stress. To regulate your mood, motivation, and anxiety, it operates with some parts of your brain.

Cortisol is developed by your adrenal glands — triangle-shaped organs at the top of your kidneys.

It is best known for helping fuel the “fight-or-flight” reflex of your body in a crisis, but in a variety of things your body does, cortisol plays an important role. This, for instance, is:

  • Manage how carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are used by your body
  • Keeps down inflammation
  • Regulates the pressure in your blood
  • Increases sugar in your blood (glucose)
  • Controls the period of sleep/wake
  • Improves energy so that you can cope with stress and then regain equilibrium

Do stimulants increase cortisol? 

Stimulants such as Adderall (amphetamine) and Ritalin (methylphenidate) that function by raising catecholamine levels do not have a clear impact on blood cortisol, but they have many effects depending on the dosage, blood sugar, and hydration status.

Both amphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin) improve the levels of dopamine (DA), norepinephrine (NE), and epinephrine catecholamine neurotransmitters (EPI, a.k.a. adrenaline). These are neurotransmitters, and what induces increased wakefulness, relief of ADHD symptoms, and much of the decline in appetite, among other consequences, is the increased levels of NE and DA in the brain (epinephrine is much less significant in the brain).

Drug activities outside the brain, where DA, NE, and epinephrine are all very essential hormones circulating in the blood and released by the adrenal glands, mainly mediate the effects on cortisol. Cortisol (the principal human natural glucocorticoid steroid hormone) and aldosterone are both secreted by the adrenal glands (the main natural mineralocorticoid steroid in humans).

The curious thing is that epinephrine (adrenaline), cortisol, and aldosterone all come from the same glands (adrenal glands, one above each kidney), but all are mixed up with the signal that induces their release, so it is difficult for your body to release cortisol without, as it were, releasing some epinephrine and aldosterone by mistake.

Cortisol secretion, also known as the amount of blood glucose, is related to blood sugar. Blood sugar is increased by epinephrine, and cortisol also increases blood sugar. Adderall and Ritalin increase blood sugar and can potentially increase it to the point that drug-induced diabetes mellitus can be triggered (usually only in very high-dose drug addicts, or in people with serious glandular diseases). As Adderall and Ritalin cause blood sugar to increase, levels of cortisol typically decrease.

But cortisol levels increase as blood sugar falls due to reduced food intake. So this may cause either increased or diminished cortisol as well. It would depend on how much you take Adderall or Ritalin, how much you drink, what you ate (sugar-sweetened cola versus lettuce chicken breast), and how insulin-responsive your body is, which is mostly dictated by your weight level.

Stress-induced changes in the level of cortisol and amphetamine

Stress is believed to lead to both substance addiction initiation and relapse. The mechanisms by which stress affects drug use, however, remain unclear. Interestingly, reactions to acute stimulant drug administration mimic some neuronal and hormonal responses to acute stress, and evidence is emerging that individual variations in a drug’s positive reinforcing or euphoric effects are connected to individual differences in acute stress responsiveness.

As expected, cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure were both increased by stress and d-amphetamine. Stress raised the adverse mood, while d-amphetamine mediated prototypical stimulant effects and increased drug-like scores. Analyses found that after stress, increased negative mood states were associated with positive mood after amphetamine. Also, Exercises, increased cortisol after stress was associated with an amphetamine-positive mood response.

Association of Amphetamine-induced striatal dopamine and Cortisol

Preclinical studies have shown that stress and glucocorticoids improve mesolimbic dopamine (DA) and thus promote self-administration of psychostimulants. There has been no study in humans of the relationship between stress-induced cortisol and mesolimbic DA responses to psychostimulants.

The results showed that the levels of stress-induced cortisol in the ventral striatum and other striatal regions were positively correlated with AMPH-induced DA release. More positive subjective drug effects with AMPH were also reported by subjects with higher cortisol responses to stress than subjects with lower responses. The results are consistent with preclinical findings that indicate an interrelationship between glucocorticoids and the dynamics of mesolimbic DA, which may affect human psychostimulant self-administration.

Do stimulants increase cortisol? (yes or no)

Role of Cortisol in the human body

Cortisol is capable of:

  • Helping the body to control stress
  • To raise flagging blood sugar levels, turn protein into glucose
  • Act to maintain constant blood sugar levels in combination with the hormone insulin
  • Inflammation reduction
  • Contribute to continuous blood pressure maintenance
  • To contribute to the regulation of the immune system

Corticosteroids used for the treatment

When treated with corticosteroids (cortisol-like medications), several common conditions respond well, including:

  • Skin diseases, such as dermatitis and psoriasis
  • Asthma, ulcerative colitis, lupus, and other types of arthritis are inflammatory diseases.
  • Cancer, especially immune system-related cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma,
  • Corticosteroids are used to suppress the body’s immune response to prevent a transplanted organ from being rejected.
  • An autoimmune condition that prevents the adrenal glands from releasing adequate hormones, including cortisol, is Addison’s disease.

Instead of treating Addison’s disease, cortisone (manufactured for use as a treatment) is used to replace the cortisol that the body naturally releases. In the treatment of pituitary disease, this can also occur. The necessary dose is much lower than the other examples listed above.

Types of Corticosteroids

The type of corticosteroids administered depends on the condition of the individual. When synthetic forms are used by physicians to treat these conditions, treatment forms include:

  • Creams-applied to the skin regions affected
  • Tablets vary in dosage but are usually held at the lowest possible dose.
  • Injections are inserted directly into the infected joint, eliminating many of the side effects of oral medication (taken by mouth)
  • Inhaler-administered in the lungs or sinuses to relieve inflammation.

Side effects of corticosteroids

Since cortisol works on so many body organs and tissues, undesirable side effects can be encountered by people treated with corticosteroids. It can be risky to stop your medicine unexpectedly, so continue taking your daily dose and see your doctor if you are worried about side effects.

Some of the more common side effects of drugs related to cortisol include:

  • Skin thinning
  • Bruising vulnerability
  • Blood pressure, high or increased
  • Infection vulnerability
  • Fat accumulation across the face, chest, and abdomen
  • The limbs are thinning
  • Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) leads to fractures of the bones, particularly in the spine.
  • The retention of fluid (oedema)
  • Diabetes 

Corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis

Corticosteroids, especially among postmenopausal women, may cause a loss of bone density in men and women. In this setting, the bones of the spine are the most susceptible to fracture. Corticosteroids interfere with the proper functioning of bone cells and prevent calcium, which also affects the bones, from being absorbed adequately by the intestine.

Osteoporosis symptoms can include:

  • Fractures of bones
  • Extreme Pain in the Back
  • Kyphosis (hunching of the upper back)
  • Height Loss

Managing the side effects of corticosteroids

The suggestions for treating the side effects of treatment with cortisol include:

  • Under strict medical control, to reduce the daily dose.
  • For any infection, seek urgent care.
  • Use supplements containing vitamin D and calcium.
  • Use other drugs and do weight-bearing exercises to retain bone strength.

High-dose corticosteroids

Disruption of the functioning of the pituitary and adrenal glands can occur where the body’s natural cortisol production has been significantly reduced by long periods of high-dose corticosteroids. They can experience cortisol insufficiency when a person stops taking high-dose corticosteroids.

Cortisol insufficiency symptoms can include:

  • Tiredness
  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Low blood pressure, particularly when you stand up from a sitting position or lying position (orthostatic hypotension)
  • Low sugar in the blood
  • Shock 
  • Coma

High levels of cortisol and Cushing’s syndrome

The elevated levels of the hormone cortisol characterize Cushing’s syndrome. Hypercortisolism is another name for Cushing’s Syndrome.

When they take elevated doses of oral corticosteroid medicine to treat inflammatory disorders such as asthma, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, some people experience symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome. Tumors of the pituitary and adrenal glands and tumors in other parts of the body are other causes. In these cases, too much cortisol is released by the body itself.

Cushing syndrome symptoms can include:

  • Gaining weight in the face, abdomen, and chest
  • The loss of limbs
  • A fatty hump between the shoulders
  • Face Flushed 
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Skin modifications, such as thin skin, quick bleeding, slow healing, and ulcers
  • Mood swings
  • Weakening of bones
  • Irregular periods (or lack thereof).

Too little Cortisol in the body

You have a disorder doctors call Addison’s disease if the body doesn’t produce enough of this hormone. Typically, over time, the signs arise. Included are:

  • Changes in the skin, like darkening of scars and folds of the skin
  • Being half the time exhausted
  • Weakness in the muscles that worsens
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea
  • Loss of weight and appetite
  • Blood Pressure remains Low

If your body does not produce enough cortisol, your doctor can prescribe tablets containing dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, or prednisone.

In this article, we answered the question, do stimulants increase cortisol or not.

FAQs: Do stimulants increase cortisol? 

Can Adderall affect your cortisol levels?

According to studies, Cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure were all increased by stress and d-amphetamine.

What medications increase cortisol?

Corticosteroid drugs used to treat asthma, arthritis, some cancers, and other diseases, when taken in high doses or for long periods, can also induce high levels of cortisol. Corticosteroids widely prescribed include Cortisone prednisone (Deltasone, Prednicot, Rayos) (Cortone Acetate).

Does cortisol increase energy?

Adrenaline stimulates your heart rate, raises your blood pressure, and increases the supply of energy. Cortisol, the key stress hormone, raises bloodstream sugars (glucose), boosts the utilization of glucose by the brain, and increases the supply of tissue repair substances.

Does Dexamphetamine increase cortisol?

Acute oral administration of dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate reliably induces the release of GH and cortisol but has no impact on serum PRL or suppressive action.

Does coffee increase cortisol?

Both caffeine and stress may increase levels of cortisol. High levels of caffeine may contribute to adverse health effects associated with prolonged high cortisol levels (as in chronic stress). Small to moderate doses of caffeine, however, will improve your mood and give you a boost.

Does Adderall increase stress?

Amphetamine misuse, for instance, places a lot of pressure and stress on the heart, and it has been related to heart failure and death. Long-term mental health can also be affected by the drug, and it can lead to depression and increased suicide risk.


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