Addiction: Men vs. Women

Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in Addiction, Alcohol, Women |

Addiction: Men vs. Women

Men and women, equally end up trying a addictive substance at some point during their life regardless if it is alcohol, nicotine, or illicit drugs at some point. Some of those men and women become dependent and are unable to have just one cigarette or the occasional beer. Why is this? Well, the answer to the question may be different for men than it is women.

Long considered a man’s problem, addiction related illnesses are responsible for the deaths of 200,000 women a year and more than 4 million women are in need of treatment for their addiction. There is new evidence that suggests there is a distinct difference between male and female patterns of addictive disorders. Some studies have shown men and women differ in the why they use, their susceptibility to addiction, and even their response to pharmacological and psychological treatment.

Addiction: Men vs. Women

The role of estrogen in addiction: men vs. women

 Recent findings that were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience added to the growing evidence that suggests estrogen plays a role in sex-based difference in addiction.

All addictive substance cause brain cells to release a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical that has evolved to reinforce survival behaviors such as mating and eating. So when a person uses a drug, the consequent dopamine burst motivates them to want to recreate what the body views as “essential behavior” time and time again.

10 years’ worth of research in humans and laboratory animals suggests that estrogen influences the amount of dopamine released in response to sexual activity and addictive drugs. Studies also showed that a woman’s reaction to stimulants like amphetamine and cocaine varies with her menstrual cycle.

Cocaine addiction: men vs. women

These and other sex differences gave Jill Becker and colleagues at the University of Michigan a jumping off place to further investigate into the role of estrogen in cocaine addiction. The data showed that women become dependent after using cocaine for shorter amounts of time in smaller doses compared with men. The motivation to use cocaine, both initially and in a relapse from drug abuse treatment also seemed to be different based on gender. Some studies revealed that women tend to use cocaine to self-medicate when feeling depressed and unhappy. Men, on the other hand generally would use cocaine when they are feeling good in order to feel even better.

Jill studied the influence of estrogen on “sensitization” to cocaine in rats. Sensitization is an important part of addiction and refers to the long term changes that occur in the brain in response to using addictive substances such as cocaine. Symptoms of cocaine sensitization in humans include rapid talking, compulsively moving around and repetitive mouth movements. In rats, head bobbing, chewing, forelimb movement and turning in circles signals sensitization to cocaine.

After three weeks of use, all animals became sensitized to cocaine. Female rats who received estrogen plus cocaine, however, showed 20 percent to 50 percent more sensitization than either female rats who did not receive estrogen or males. Two weeks after receiving estrogen, female rats continued to exhibit greater behavioral responses to cocaine than those who did not receive estrogen.

The results really show according to Becker that estrogen has something to do with addiction and in this case sensitization to cocaine.

Nicotine addiction: men vs. women

Cigarette smoking also shows sex-specific patterns. Women tend to use smoking to regulate their mood and suppress their appetite, while men are more apt to smoke to improve their attention and performance at work, ease feelings of aggression and relieve pain. As for quitting, nicotine replacement therapy, developed and tested primarily for men, is not surprisingly less effective in women. Instead, studies show that women have greater success using antidepressants such as bupropion to break the habit. What’s more, support groups and psychotherapy focused around smoking cessation tends to be more helpful for women than men.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=116913&page=2

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