Men and Women Respond Differently to Cocaine

By Valerie Tejeda 02/01/12

A new study reports that cocaine acts differently in the brains of different genders. The findings may spur scientists to develop more targeted treatments for addiction.

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Gender may play an important role in determining treatment for cocaine addicts. Researchers from Yale School of Medicine studied 30 addicts and 36 non-addicted recreational drinkers as a control group. While conducting brain scans, the scientists gave the subjects verbal cues related to cocaine, alcohol and stressful situations. To no one's surprise, the coke addicts showed increased brain activation in certain brain areas compared to the non-addicts. But an unexpected discovery was the how the women’s brains responded more to stress cues; the men’s brains responded more to cocaine cues. The findings—published in the American Journal of Psychiatry—suggest that women who are addicted to cocaine may benefit more from therapy focusing on stress-reduction, while male addicts may benefit more from 12-step programs, or cognitive behavioral therapy. “There are differences in treatment outcomes for people with addictions who experience stress-induced drug cravings and those whose cravings are induced by drug cues,” says psychiatrist Dr. Marc Potenza, first author of the study. “It is important to understand the biologic mechanisms that underlie these cravings.”

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.