Sex, drugs … and self-control

Photo credit: istockphoto.com

     
   

Substance abusers who kick the habit are much more likely to relapse when stress or certain “cues”—sights or sounds associated with their drug of choice—stimulate cravings.

In a new study published in an advance online issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, Marc N. Potenza, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at the Yale Stress Center found that the pattern of brain activity elicited in cocaine-dependent women by stress or drug-related cues was remarkably different from that seen in male counterparts. In women, brain regions associated with drug craving were significantly more activated by stress than by cues; men showed the opposite pattern.

“There are differences in treatment outcomes for people who experience stress-induced drug cravings and those whose cravings are induced by drug cues,” says Potenza, professor of psychiatry and director of the Women and Addictive Disorders Core of Women’s Health Research at Yale. “It is important to understand the biologic mechanisms that underlie these cravings.”


 

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