How Drugs Affect Women’s Brains

How Drugs Affect Women’s Brains

Women are more susceptible to the long-term health consequences of drug use, such as cancer and memory problems.

Recent research has increasingly demonstrated that drug use affects men and women differently in Sacramento. According to the book Substance Abuse Treatment: Addressing the Specific Needs of Women, the physical effects of drugs are more significant for women than for men. In both human and animal studies, results have demonstrated that women are more sensitive to drug use. Through both absorption and metabolic processes, women seem to reap more of the physical consequences of substance abuse.

In general, many of the consequences of drugs and alcohol use are roughly the same for both sexes. For example, excessive alcohol use can lead to liver problems, marijuana use can lead to memory problems and smoking can lead to lung cancer. These consequences can occur in any person regardless of sex. However, although the consequences of drug use in men and women are similar, women seem to be more susceptible to these issues.

Women Experience a Stronger High

Along with the long-term effects of drug use, the initial impact of drug use is also more intense for women than it is for men in Sacramento. Women seem to experience the mood enhancement effects of drugs in stronger proportions than men. This, unfortunately, can lead to increased drug use. When the brain is experiencing a strong sense of wellbeing, it is harder for a person to detect when he or she has had too much of a drug and should stop. Therefore, women may also be more susceptible to heavy drug use, binges and potential overdose. Further research is needed to draw conclusive answers on this particular topic, however.

Lack of Research on the Effects of Drugs in Women

There is far less research on the effects of drugs on women than there is on the effects of drugs on men. Many past studies either only used male participants or overlooked gender differences when reporting results. Furthermore, women were excluded from many studies due to the possibility of them becoming pregnant and the fear that hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycles would impact the effects of the drugs and taint the results of the research. These concerns and the subsequent exclusion of women from drug research has left an unfortunate gap in the scientific knowledge of the unique effects of drugs on women in Sacramento.

How Nicotine, Cocaine, and Alcohol Affect Women

Two studies funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have revealed some of the unique ways that certain drugs affect women’s brains. These studies explored differences in the ways men and women respond to nicotine, cocaine and alcohol. In the study on nicotine, led by Dr. Steven Potkin and his team of researchers at the University of California, the brain activity of men and women was monitored as they performed activities either with or without a nicotine patch. At the end of the study, Potkin concluded that there are biological differences between men and women that contribute to the unique ways that nicotine affects each sex. In a study on cocaine and alcohol led by Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz and her team of researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, nine men and eight women were studied for their responses to cocaine, alcohol, and the combination of the two drugs. The study revealed that overall, men and women seemed to respond to these drugs similarly, but there were some notable differences. Results of these studies are described in greater detail below.

  • Effects of Nicotine on Men and Women – Men and women smoke cigarettes differently and experience the effects of nicotine differently. Women take less frequent, briefer puffs. Even so, women experience mood improvements that men do not. In general, quitting smoking is more of a struggle for women possibly due to the mood enhancements that are unique to women. Nicotine, however, also has an equalizing effect on the brain activities of men and women. When women perform certain activities, certain parts of their brain are more activated than the brains of men performing the same activities. These more activated areas are associated with choice, attention, executive function, mood and memory. Nicotine, however, seems to equalize these differences between men and women making their brain activity more similar. Nicotine increases the brain activity of men while decreasing the brain activity of women.
  • Effects of Cocaine and Alcohol on Men and Women – In general, men’s and women’s responses to alcohol and cocaine were the same. However, there were some notable differences. Women tended to have higher heart rates after drinking alcohol, and just as cigarettes can lead to an improved mood that is unique to women, women seem to experience the positive feelings associated with cocaine use more intensely than men do. After taking doses of cocaine every half hour, women consistently reported higher rates of wellbeing than men.

Research points to the fact that men and women have biological differences that affect the way their bodies process drugs. While there are many similarities in the effects of drugs on men and women, women tend to experience more pronounced consequences and suffer from more of the problems associated with drugs.

Need Help Finding High Quality Substance Abuse Addiction Treatment?

If you or someone you love in Sacramento is struggling with substance abuse, please know help is available. There are many high quality treatment programs designed to help women in their unique struggles with substance abuse. Call our toll-free helpline to learn more about the addiction treatment options that are available to you. We are available 24 hours a day, so feel free to call us any time of the day or night. We are always ready to help you find the treatment that leads to recovery.

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