Gender Brain Differences Related to Addiction


A new study conducted by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found that when it comes to addition issues, sex matters. Published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study found significant differences in male and female brains when it comes to cocaine use and treatment.

A study was conducted with 30 cocaine dependent subjects and 36 control subjects who self reported as recreational drinkers. Each was given a brain scan while exposed to stressful situations or what was defined as drug cues. Drug cues are situations or events related to alcohol or drugs that were presented to males in the study. Subjects who were self reported cocaine dependent showed greater activation in the brain linked to addiction and motivation than control subjects.

According to the study areas in female brains are stimulated when under stress. These areas of the brain are responsible for drug cravings in cocaine dependent women. In male brains, it is not stress that activates these areas but rather drug cues. This was found in cocaine dependent men. In other words, women’s brains make them crave drugs while they are under stress, while men’s brains make them crave drugs from drug cues. This is significant as it can help determine the best treatment options for each gender. Treatment options geared toward these gender differences can have better success rates for treating addiction. For example, it was noted that women may benefit more from stress reduction therapy to learn ways to cope with stress that does not result in drug craving. While men may have more success with cognitive therapy or 12 step programs to better help them deal with life situations where they may come in contact with drugs or alcohol.

While the number of subjects in this study was not a real representative sample, this study has the potential to lay the groundwork for further studies on gender differences when it comes to addiction issues. This, in turn will allow for more study of the best treatment options for success in overcoming addiction.


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