How cocaine affects the female brain in different ways

Women account for about one-third of all cocaine users in the United States, and they may differ from male cocaine abusers in several ways.

Studies have shown that women who rely on cocaine have different reasons for seeking detoxification than men, they respond differently to treatment, and their brains respond differently to cocaine cravings.

Using PET (positron emission tomography) scanning technology, scientists at Emory University School of Medicine found that women who rely on cocaine react differently in their brains than men.

Studies have found that the changes in cerebral blood flow in cocaine-addicted women are different from those in cocaine-dependent men, which show neural activity in the brain.

For these reasons, researchers believe that gender-specific treatment strategies for cocaine abuse may be more effective.

Drug cravings and brain areas

Dr. Clinton Kilts and his colleagues examined drug addiction-related blood flow in the brains of eight abstinent cocaine craving women, and compared these results with samples from eight matched cocaine craving men.

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The researchers used a one-minute narrative to describe the past use of cocaine to stimulate research participants’ cravings for cocaine. Researchers produced PET images of participants’ brains when they listened to drug use stories and drug-neutral stories.

Women’s emotions and cognition are affected to varying degrees

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Researchers have found that the cravings caused by the clues are related to greater activation of the female central sulcus and frontal cortex, while the amygdala, insula, orbitofrontal cortex, and ventral cingulate cortex are associated with greater activation. Less activation.

Both males and females showed activation of the right nucleus accumbens. Perhaps the most notable is the neural activity measured in the subjects’ amygdala. Compared with the increase observed in men, women’s activities are significantly reduced,” the report said.

  • Amygdala: plays a role in your ability to control sexual behavior and feel certain emotions (including fear)
  • Insula: Play a role in internal feelings (interpreting physical signals), decision-making, anxiety, pain perception, cognition, emotion, threat recognition, and conscious impulse
  • Orbitofrontal cortex: play a role in selection and decision making
  • The ventral cingulate cortex: plays a role in empathy, impulse control, emotion, and decision-making
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Limitations of learning

Researchers at Emory University pointed out that their study has limitations, including the small sample size and the inclusion of two female subjects who are not currently participating in the drug treatment plan.

Although the researchers acknowledge that conclusions about drug cravings induced by possible gender differences related to cocaine dependence should be considered highly preliminary, they believe that the differences detected in the study may support the development of gender-specific strategies for drug abuse The necessity.

Metabolism and absorption differences

Other studies have found that there are biological differences in the way men and women absorb and metabolize cocaine, and therefore have different effects on men and women.

A study found that the gender difference in the effects of cocaine is a combined effect of greater physical barriers to cocaine absorption due to metabolic differences and menstrual hormonal changes caused by increased nasal mucus.

The study also shows that cocaine abuse treatment strategies should be different for women and men.

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