High levels of a stress hormone could be having a negative impact on recovering alcoholics.
This is according to the results of a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Liverpool.
The researchers found that cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress, was present in high levels among chronic alcoholics and people recovering from the condition.
Cortisol was found to impair memory, attention and decision-making functions.
This could have an impact on the patient's ability to recover from the effects of alcohol.
Dr Abi Rose, lead author of the review, commented: "Both drinking and withdrawal from alcohol can affect cortisol function in humans.
"Cortisol dysfunction, including the high levels of cortisol observed during alcohol withdrawal, may contribute to the high rates of relapse reported in alcohol dependence, even after many months of abstinence."
She suggested that drugs targeting the effects of the hormone on the brain could improve the chances of recovery for alcoholics.