Your hormones can affect your health in so many different ways, and now new research from the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research has shown that hormones are possibly related to the disorders in the use of substances in women, according to a press release. The researchers published an investigation in the journal Nature Neuropsychopharmacology they discovered that not only the hormonal cycles of women increase the likelihood of influencing by substance use, according to the press release, but women are also more likely to be affected by triggers that lead to relapses in substance use. The researchers say their findings are incredibly important because of the lack of research on how substance use specifically affects women.
"Women who become addicted to drugs can be a fundamentally different process than men," said Erin Calipari, an assistant professor of pharmacology at the Vanderbilt Center for addiction research, in the press release. "It is important to understand this, because it is the first step in developing treatments that are effective."
To study the differences in the way substance use differs per sex, the researchers have given male and female rats access to a substance by pressing a lever, according to the press release. When the rats opened the substance, a green light was turned on to simulate the environmental triggers that are present for people who use substances, according to the press release. When circulating hormones – which mainly consist of hormones related to the endocrine system – were high, the researchers discovered that the female rats were more strongly associated with the light and more inclined to push the lever "as much as needed" To get the substance.
The researchers say that the environmental trigger – the green light – has prepared the female rats to "pay more" to gain access to the substance. "We discovered that the animals press a lever to get the light – those environmental stimuli, which is valuable to them," Calipari said in the press release. And the researchers say that these results are transferable to people.
The Vanderbilt team is certainly not the first to link hormones to a larger example of substance use. A 2014 study published in Current psychiatric reports discovered that estrogen can enhance the effects of substances such as cocaine and amphetamines. And the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) also says that scientists have discovered that hormones can make women more sensitive to substances than men. Both the Vanderbuilt team and the NIH say that studies such as these are of great importance, because research into substance use has primarily focused on the way in which substances influence men.
"Historically, researchers have not used the use of female animals specifically in medical studies, so they do not have to take into account the effects of hormonal cycles," Calipari said in the press release. "As a result, drug development often focuses on correcting dysfunction in men, which can explain why women often do not respond in the same way to available drugs or treatments as men."
The NIH says that not only women were excluded from research into substance use, because their bodies were thought to be more biologically complicated than men & # 39 ;, but researchers also thought that women were too busy caring for families to participate to studies. Fortunately, studies such as Vanderbilt's are starting to focus specifically on how substances affect women, so there are better treatment options for everyone.
But there is good news that everyone benefits, regardless of gender. In a recent study recently published, a research team in Portland discovered a gene that could help scientists develop a drug to help prevent and treat alcohol addiction. The researchers say that currently only a handful of treatments for alcohol use disorders have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so they hope that their findings pave the way for the development of a drug that helps treat chronic alcohol consumption.
The use of resources can affect people in so many unseen ways, and it is great to see that researchers are making all these efforts to help people recover and lead their best lives. With more treatment options available, people will have more options to find the treatment that works best for them.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, you can call the SAMHSA national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)