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Female estrogen cycle linked to high probability of cocaine abuse in women, finds study

Female estrogen cycle linked to high probability of cocaine abuse in women, finds study

06-23 | CDAH Team

Historically, drug use, misuse and abuse have been stereotyped as men’s domain, since men are more likely to use almost all kinds of illegal drugs than women. As a result, drug addiction in women is regarded as a matter of shame and disgrace. Although men and women show marked differences in their vulnerability to particular drugs, both have the potential to develop addiction to drugs like cocaine, heroin, tobacco, hallucinogens and inhalants. Studies have shown that addiction is not a biased condition and occur to both men and women.

According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications in January 2017, hormonal changes in women increase their fascination toward addictive properties of cocaine. Conducted by researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the study highlighted that the female hormone estrogen works to intensify the dopamine reward pathway of the brain. Moreover, cocaine was found to show the highest effects during the period when the release of estrogen is at its peak, that is, during the estrous/menstrual cycle.

Need for developing optimized treatment for drug addiction in both men and women

While women abuse almost all kinds of drugs, cocaine abuse, in particular, has become more common over the last decade. Previous studies had shown that women get hooked on to illegal substances like cocaine at a tender age. Most women are habituated to take addictive substances in large quantities and thus, face significant challenges in remaining aloof from them, as compared to men. Interestingly, women tend to experience a greater high from cocaine administration during their menstrual cycles, when estrogen levels keep rising.

To understand the reason behind women’s affinity toward cocaine, researchers from the Mount Sinai performed a series of experiments on mice and studied female mice undergoing their estrous cycle. The results revealed that female mice that exhibited higher levels of estrogen had more dopamine released for longer periods of time, which further enhanced the effects of the drug. “Estrogen affects the quantity of dopamine released by neurons in response to cocaine, as well as how long the dopamine stays in the synapse between brain cells,” said the researchers. According to Eric Nestler, director of The Friedman Brain Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine, “this approach is essential to enable the field to develop optimized treatments for drug addiction and other conditions for women as well as men.”

Leading a drug-free life is possible

The reason for drug abuse may vary from person to person. While some women may use drugs like cocaine as self-medication, others may use them to feel more energetic. However, a majority of them uses drugs to escape from emotional pain or mental health symptoms. Although initial effects of cocaine may appear to be positive, its regular use can cause myriad of health problems, financial concerns and mental health issues. With the discovery of the role of estrogen and progesterone in drug abuse, scientists have been able to map how drugs affect both male and females. It has significantly boosted the deliverance of positive treatment outcomes for both men and women even with the presence of a number of factors that were initially believed to offset treatment.

If you or your loved one is struggling with cocaine addiction, you can seek help from the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline for details about the best addiction treatment centers in Colorado. To find out drug rehab centers in Colorado, call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-218-7546 or chat online with our experts for more information about customized treatment programs near you.


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