As researchers discover more information about drugs and their interactions mentally and physically, some powerful data shows that women become addicted to drugs faster than men, but there are more addicts overall who are male. However, the mechanisms that cause this phenomenon can also help women overcome their substance abuse.
Researchers at Davidson College in North Carolina have discovered that hormones likely play a role in this difference between men and women and their susceptibility to misuse drugs. They then wanted to see if these hormones could be used to help reduce subsequent drug use, and their findings were published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
“There are a lot of data to indicate that women transition from that initial use to having a substance-use disorder much more rapidly,” explained Mark Smith, a psychologist at Davidson.
The researchers were able to track drug use in female rats as they went through their menstrual cycles. They found that the hormones, progesterone and estrogen, proved to be factors in significant reduction of drug use. For example, when a rat’s hormone levels were the highest, the amount of heroin that was consumed went down drastically, leading to a direct correlation of reduction of drug use.
This new information points to estrogen and progesterone as possibly being effective supplements for women who are seeking treatment for opiate addiction. However, there are still a lot of questions researchers have to answer before this type of medication becomes available to female addicts. For instance, the researchers are unsure if estrogen, or progesterone or both are responsible for the decrease in the urge to consume opiates. Research trials are being conducted to find out the answer to these questions, and similar studies must be done with humans to better determine the real-life application of this information.