According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 15.8 million women admitted to using an illegal drug within the last year. While there are still more male addicts than females in the United States, researchers have realized that there are certain fluctuations in the estrogen hormone that may increase the chances that a woman could become addicted. This is important because if researchers can isolate the hormonal changes that make women more susceptible to drug use, they may be able to develop more preventable solutions for drug use in the future.
One particular study is focusing on women and cocaine use, headed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA). It is being funded by a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund bio molecular research on the effects of changing hormone levels and molecular effects on behavior resulting from drug use.
“Our study on hormonal effects could lead to customizable and differentiated addiction treatment and prevention measures for men, women, women on hormone-based birth control, post-menopausal women and women on hormone replacement therapy,” said Linda Perrotti, UTA associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study.
Perrotti also went on to explain that, compared to men, women tend to experience more intense cravings when they are abstinent from the drug and seem to use more cocaine during periods of relapse. The clear differences between male and female cocaine users is interesting because until recently there was very little focus on the female-specific cocaine research.
Other researchers point out that isolating the study to women is important because it offers insight that previous studies could not. Many of the earlier studies have focused on male subjects, but now that researchers are aware that men and women may have different biological reasons for developing addictions, more studies that focus just on women are needed.
As treatment programs continue to evolve and incorporate new research and strategies, it has become increasingly important to include evidence-based therapies into the curriculum. More research like this can help programs develop and implement more treatments backed by scientific research in addition to other therapies and fellowship benefits.