When it comes to addiction, sex matters.
Researchers at Yale University found men and women have different triggers that activate the areas of the brain associated with cravings and addictions.
The researchers conducted functional MRI scans of 30 cocaine-dependent individuals and 36 control subjects who were recreational drinkers. They found that stress typically sparks these areas of the brain for women, and drug cues set-off these same brain sensors in men.
“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,” said Marc Potenza, professor of psychiatry at Yale, and lead study author. “It is important to understand the biologic mechanisms that underlie these cravings.”
Potenza believes that these results prove that women with cocaine dependence may benefit more from therapies that focus more on stress, while therapy for men could be tailored to include cognitive behavioral therapy or 12 step programs based on the values of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The study is published in the latest online issue of Journal of Psychiatry.