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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1996 Dec;20(9):1675-81.

Acute hemodynamic, pituitary, and adrenocortical responses to alcohol in adult female sheep.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology, Texas A&M University, College Station 77843-4466, USA.


Alcohol was infused intravenously into chronically cannulated adult female sheep as a 40% solution (w/v) at doses of 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, or 2.0 g/kg over 1 hr. Saline infusions, equal in volume to the highest dose, served as a control. Dose-dependent peak blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) were attained 60 min after the beginning of alcohol infusion for all doses (86.5 +/- 3.7, 213.2 +/- 11.0, 373.2 +/- 14.3, and 494.1 +/- 34.5 mg/dl +/- SE, respectively). Plasma cortisol concentrations increased in response to the 0.5 g/kg infusions (BACs less than 100 mg/dl), whereas both ACTH and cortisol concentrations increased in the 1.0 and 2.0 g/kg dose groups. Mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and Paco2 increased, whereas Pao2 decreased in response to the 1.5 and 2.0 g/kg infusions. Arterial pH declined in the highest dose group. Respiratory rate was lower in all groups receiving alcohol compared with that of the control group. Hematocrit did not change. We conclude that BACs in adult female sheep below 100 mg/dl (levels easily achieved by social drinkers) result in activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. At high BACs (> 350 mg/dl), pituitary adrenal responses are accompanied by increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and Paco2 and decreases in Pao2 and arterial pH. These findings support the hypothesis that alcohol acts directly on the brain to mediate pituitary adrenal responses and that the additional responses to high BACs (the blood gas and hemodynamic responses), might be mediated by direct actions of alcohol on the brain, by cerebral ischemia, or by alcohol-mediated suppression of ventilatory drive and hypoxemia.

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