According to Yale School of Medicine researchers, “When it comes to addiction, sex matters.” A new study released January 31, 3023 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that men and women would benefit more from different, gender specific, treatments for addictions.

According to the study, stress can activate the brains of women who are cocaine-dependent while drug cues are what activate the similar region of the brains of cocaine-dependent men.

The pattern for the reasons women become chemically dependent as opposed to men differs greatly. Women can start abuse of alcohol or drugs due to stress from abuse, socioeconomic situations, and problems in relationships. They are also less likely to enter and complete traditional treatment due to finances, fear of being ostracized by society, and have greater psychological complications that prohibit them from completing traditional programs.

Psychiatrists recognize that most women turn to addiction as a way to cope, so gender specific treatment that addresses their unique circumstances is needed. Some of the alternative treatments would include family planning, medical services, general health check ups, outreach programs, and programs that will build up their confidence and make them more independent.

“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, child study, and neurobiology and first author of the study. “It is important to understand the biologic mechanisms that underlie these cravings.”

Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans (fMRI) were done on 30 cocaine-dependent individuals and 36 control subjects who were simply recreational drinkers. Each of the subjects was given a personalized event or situation and asked to tell them whether it was particularly stressful, and other cues that were cocaine or alcohol related.

Those who were cocaine-dependent showed more activation overall in regions that relate to addiction and motivation than the control subjects. The patterns between the groups were distinctive between the men and women when presented with stress or drug cues.

According to Potenza, the findings suggest cocaine-dependent women may react better to target-specific therapies that are centered on stress-reduction and their cravings. Men may be more receptive to cognitive behavioral treatments or a 12-step program on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA – the drug treatment steps are the same).



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Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at




Science News – Addicts’ Cravings Have Different Roots in Men and Women:

APA PsychNet – American Psychological Association: