Kathleen T. Brady, M.D., Ph.D.
SUMMARY: The notion that life stressors can cause susceptible people to initiate or relapse to substance use has intuitive appeal as well as laboratory support. Dr. Kathleen Brady explained that although several neurobiological connections between the changes produced by stress and the changes produced by substance use have been identified in the lab, the relationship between stress and substance use has been more difficult to study in the clinical arena. Brady suggests that stress and the body’s response to it likely play a role in the vulnerability to initial substance use, initiation of treatment, and relapse in recovering users. She hypothesized that this relationship may be mediated in part by common neurochemical systems, such as the serotonin, dopamine, and opiate peptide systems, as well as the HPA axis. Further exploration of these connections should lead to important pharmacological developments in the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.