Brain changes after stimulant abuse appear to be more severe in women than in men, according to a publication from the University of Colorado, School of Medicine. The study used MRI to evaluate the brains of men and women who abstained from drug use, but who had been previously addicted to stimulants. The investigators found lower gray matter volumes in widespread brain regions in women who had been dependent on cocaine, amphetamines and/or methamphetamine for an average of 15.7 years as compared to controls. However, they found no significant differences between the males previously addicted to stimulants and the control group.
The researchers noted that after an average of 13.5 months of abstinence, women who were previously dependent on stimulants had significantly less gray matter volume in multiple brain regions when compared with controls, including areas of the brain important for decision making, emotion, reward processing and habit formation. The investigators also noted that women tend to begin cocaine or amphetamine use at an earlier age, show accelerated escalation of drug use, report more difficulty quitting and, upon seeking treatment, report using larger quantities of these drugs as compared to men. The researchers conclude that their findings may improve the understanding of processes underlying stimulant abuse in women and men and may lead to more effective treatments.
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