Women more vulnerable to drug addiction : Study

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New York,
Feb 10. Women’s hormonal cycles may not only make them prone to drug
addiction but are also affected by triggers that lead to relapse, new research
has found.

When fertility-related
hormone
levels are high, females learn faster, make stronger associations
to cues in their environment and are more inclined to seek rewards, according to
a study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Women
represent a particularly vulnerable population, with higher rates of addiction
following exposure to drugs, said researcher Erin Calipari, Assistant Professor
at Vanderbilt University in the US.

“Women
becoming addicted to drugs may be a fundamentally different process than
men,” she said. “It’s important to understand this, because it’s the
first step in developing treatments that are actually effective,” Calipari
said.

The next
step, she said, would be to figure out specifics of how hormonal shifts affect
women’s brains and, ultimately, develop medications that could help override
those.

In this
study, male and female rats were allowed to dose themselves with cocaine by
pushing a lever, with a light set up to come on during dosing.

That’s
similar to the environmental cues, such as drug paraphernalia, present when
humans are taking drugs.

When hormone
levels were high, female rats made stronger associations with the light and
were more likely to keep pushing the lever as much as it took to get any amount
of cocaine.

Females were
willing to “pay” more in the presence of these cues to get cocaine,
the findings showed.

The results are transferable to humans through behavioural economic analysis, which uses a complicated mathematical equation with values for the most and least a subject will do to get a payoff, said the study.

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