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Hormones Linked to Substance Abuse and Relapse in Women


Hormones Linked to Substance Abuse and Relapse in Women

Substance abuse is a condition that researchers are still trying to understand through how the brain works. Researchers of the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction conducted a study to show that hormones in women are what lead to substance abuse disorder as well as the reason why women are affected by triggers that lead to relapse. With more research being done to see how women are affected by abusive substances, more has the potential to be done in regards to treatment.

Hormones are in charge of traveling through the body to facilitate growth, metabolism, fertility, influence the function of the immune system, and even alter behavior. Vanderbilt’s study proved that females with high hormones are able to learn faster, make stronger associations to environmental cues, and more prone to seek rewards. Researchers started this experiment with male and female rats to access a substance by pushing a lever. After gaining access, a green light would turn on to stimulate environmental triggers. When hormones would go high, it was discovered that female rats associated better with the light than male rats and were more likely to push the lever in order to get as much of the substance as possible. The green light would show that female rats were willing to “pay more” to access the substance. The same is true with women and alcohol where according to a JAMA Psychiatry study, women develop cirrhosis with less alcohol and in a shorter time.  

The next steps to take as a result of these findings would be to figure out how hormonal shifts affect a woman’s brain and develop medications to override them. These results may help explain why women respond differently to available treatments and medication compared to men. In the past, women were not part of research studies for addiction because they were thought to be more “biologically complicated” than men and thinking they would be too busy taking care of their families.

This study shows that women transition to addiction faster and have more problems with cravings and relapses. If more research is not being done towards women and substance abuse, that means that more treatment will work more for men than women which will not be a help to the other half of the population. By taking the addiction and relapses of women seriously, more effective treatments will be done to ensure that women get the help that they need.

Located in Huntington Beach, California, Simple Recovery’s mission is to help clients struggling with addiction and mental illness to face their fears, understanding your addiction, and inspiring them to realize how achievable a sober life can be. With the help of a staff with first-hand recovery experience, this evidence-based treatment program includes different modes of recreational therapy for clients and their families in the beautiful surf-city environment. For more information, please call us 888-743-0490 as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.