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How Drugs Affect Women’s Brains

How Drugs Affect Women’s Brains

The differences between men’s and women’s bodies make certain drugs riskier to use

While both men and women experience addiction, withdrawal and psychological dependence upon drugs, recent discoveries reveal significant differences in the way women’s bodies respond to foreign substances. According to a June, 2014 article in Scientific American, the way the female body processes, metabolizes and stores drugs can render them much more susceptible to addiction and relapse than males. Hormonal and neurological differences also suggest that it would help women to seek sex-specific treatment for addiction recovery.

Physiological Difference in Female Drug Responses

Women’s bodies differ from men’s, but the most important differences are just beginning to come to light when it comes to drug use. The following discoveries about women have unique implications for drug use:

  • Their bodies have more fat, which can store drugs longer
  • Less stomach acid impacts how quickly their bodies can metabolize chemicals
  • Their kidneys filter blood more slowly than men’s
  • Women’s blood has lower “binding capacity,” which means it picks up chemicals more slowly
  • They have increased levels of certain liver enzymes that break down chemicals, which means they need higher doses to achieve desired effects
  • Cyclical hormonal changes can reduce the amount of glucose in the blood, which empowers self-control
  • Their relatively smaller body size results in lower blood levels
  • Despite these differences, women have regularly received similar dosages of anti-depressants and addictive painkillers as men. Some of these differences make women more or even less prone to addiction than men, but these differences should all be considered when prescribing or using addictive medications.

Differences in Female Addiction Treatment

The differences between the brains of men and women are difficult to pinpoint, but the psychology behind habit formation, physical dependence and psychological addiction are consistent for both sexes. However, the following factors make drugs affect women’s brains in unique ways:

  • Monthly menstrual cycles impact hormones that influence impulse control, mood regulation, feelings of wellness and the need for comfort
  • Women often experience greater anxiety related to body image issues, which may make them more likely to self-medicate
  • The pleasure center of the female brain is more sensitive to the “feel-good” chemicals of chocolate and other food
  • Women suffer from eating disorders at a much higher rate than men
  • Certain psychological differences make it more difficult for women to overcome some kinds of addiction

The underlying evidence suggests that addiction is much more nuanced and complicated than previously believed. No two addicts are alike; while both sexes are subject to the power of addiction, consider sex-specific issues when using drugs or seeking addiction recovery.

Benefits of Women-Only Addiction Treatment

When discussing how addiction affects women, one of the most important benefits is how women-only treatment fosters recovery. In addition to more deeply understanding the physiological and emotional differences of the female mind, sex-specific rehab centers offer the following advantages over co-ed programs:

  • The image-conscious aspect of romance reduces greatly
  • Women are more likely to share deeper thoughts and feelings with other women than when they are in mixed company
  • Women experience unique relationship challenges that impact recovery, including romantic relationships, parenting and professional relationships
  • When separated from men, some women become more expressive and focused on the work of recovery

There are also aesthetic differences that make female-only recovery programs more comfortable—creative exercises, group activities, arts therapy and even family counseling sessions can all be significantly different when conducted among a single sex.

24 Hour Helpline for Women Drug Addicts

If you would like more information about how drugs affect the female brain or about the benefits of women-only addiction treatment, then please call our toll-free helpline now. Our admissions coordinators are standing by 24 hours a day with free advice and access to the most successful recovery programs available. There are no strings attached when you call, and you can remain anonymous if you like. Our staff can even answer questions about insurance coverage for treatment costs. If needed, they will advocate on your behalf to make sure you get the treatment and care you are entitled to.

Many treatment programs take a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, because they overlook the unique needs of each client. However, you, or the addicted woman in your life, deserve the best possible care, and we can help you find it, so call now.

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