Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Neuroscience Letters


Substance use disorders have been associated with alterations in the oxytocinergic system, but few studies have investigated both the peptide and epigenetic mechanisms potentially implicated in the regulation of oxytocin receptor. In this study, we compared plasma oxytocin and blood DNA methylation in the OXTR gene between people with and without cocaine use disorder (CUD). We measured the oxytocin levels of 51 people with CUD during acute abstinence and of 30 healthy controls using an enzyme immunoassay. The levels of DNA methylation in four CpG sites at exon III of the OXTR gene were evaluated in a subsample using pyrosequencing. The Addiction Severity Index was used to assess clinical characteristics. We found higher oxytocin levels in men with CUD (56.5 pg/mL; 95% CI; 48.2–64.7) than in control men (33.6 pg/mL; 95% CI; 20.7–46.5), while no differences between women with and without CUD were detected. With a moderate effect size, the interaction effect between group and sex remained significant when controlling for height, weight and age data. A positive correlation in the CUD sample was found between oxytocin levels and days of psychological suffering prior to treatment enrollment. No group differences were observed regarding DNA methylation data. This suggests that CUD is associated with higher peripheral oxytocin levels in men during acute abstinence. This finding may be considered in future studies that aim at using exogenous oxytocin as a potential treatment for cocaine addiction.

PubMed ID




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.