Uppers have a serious downside for women.
According to a new study out of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, narcotics were found to cause brain damage in women – but not men.
The results, published in the journal Radiology, aimed to determine how the impact of substance abuse differs by gender.
“We found that after an average of 13.5 months of abstinence, women who were previously dependent on stimulants had significantly less gray matter volume in several brain areas compared to healthy women,” says senior author Jody Tanabe.
The scientists analyzed structural brain MRIs in 127 men and women. The sample included 59 people (28 women and 31 men) who were previously dependent on cocaine, amphetamines and/or methamphetamine for an average of 15.7 years, and 68 healthy people (28 women and 40 men), all of whom were of a similar age and gender.
After an average of 13.5 months of abstinence, MRI results from women who were previously dependent on stimulants showed a much smaller volume of gray matter in their brains’ frontal, limbic and temporal regions. These areas are important for decision-making, emotion, reward processing and habit formation.
However, the men in the study were not affected.
“While the women previously dependent on stimulants demonstrated widespread brain differences when compared to their healthy control counterparts, the men demonstrated no significant brain differences,” says Tanabe.
In comparison to men, women tend to begin cocaine or amphetamine use at an earlier age, and therefore show an accelerated escalation of drug use. They also report more difficulty in quitting, and, upon seeking treatment, report using larger quantities of these drugs, the study co-author reported.
“We hope that our findings will lead to further investigation into gender differences in substance dependence and, thus, more effective treatments,” Tanabe explains.
The study’s results support previous research, which showed that women are more sensitive to the consumption and long-term effects of alcohol and drugs than men, and more susceptible to develop alcohol and drug-related diseases and organ damage.