The influences of morphine and naloxone on hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) function were studied in the rat to investigate further the role of opioidergic mechanisms in the control of the secretion of corticotrophin and its hypothalamic releasing factor (CRF). Morphine not only caused rises in hypothalamic CRF content and plasma ACTH concentration but also potentiated the HPA response to stress. Its effects were antagonized by naloxone which, when given alone, did not influence basal plasma concentrations of ACTH and corticosterone but which inhibited, in a dose-dependent manner, the release of both of these hormones which normally occurs in response to stress. Naloxone also attenuated the exaggeration in stress-induced HPA activity but did not affect the increases in plasma ACTH concentration which followed adrenalectomy. The findings suggest that opioidergic mechanisms may be involved in the regulation of the HPA response to stress.

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