How Drugs Affect Men’s Brains

How Drugs Affect Men’s BrainsMen and women often consume and become addicted to the same drugs, so they often need the same treatment to reach recovery. However, recent and ongoing studies have found that men and women react differently to drugs, and even to the same dose of a drug. On average, women are smaller than men, so they may respond more readily to a smaller dose of any drug. Furthermore, Roni Jacobson of Scientific American notes that men are typically less sensitive to many drugs as women, so they are also less likely than women to experience significant side effects. Jacobson mentions that different hormones, body composition and metabolism are all factors in why men and women should be treated differently when it comes to being prescribed drugs.

According to Scientific American, men are more likely to overdose on prescription painkillers than women, because they typically do not experience satisfactory pain relief as quickly as women. However, men are often more successful at stopping painkiller use and reaching recovery, because they often have higher levels of glucose in the brain, which is necessary for exhibiting self-control. When it comes to breaking down a substance in the body, men have more acidic stomachs, which allows them to break down drugs faster and to experience fewer side effects the next morning.

Many antipsychotic drugs do not work as well for men as they do for women. Men often have to take higher doses to manage their hallucinations or delusions. The differences can make it difficult to find the appropriate doses for any man or woman, and they can further complicate treatment for addiction or ongoing mental disorders.

Carl Sherman of the National Institute on Drug Abuse cites a study that was conducted by medical and research experts on how men’s and women’s brains react differently to substances like nicotine, alcohol and cocaine. The study found that men’s brains do not metabolize certain substances as fast as women do. Men also reported lower consistently lower amounts of euphoria than women when under the influence of cocaine or alcohol. Not reaching a satisfying level of euphoria from cocaine and alcohol could cause some men to take higher doses in greater succession, which thereby increases the risk for overdose.

In the past, women were often excluded from clinical drug trials, because their fluctuating hormones were deemed an unnecessary variable that would simply cause confusion. However, the differences between men and women and how they react to drugs are coming to the forefront, and the Food and Drug Administration is upping their efforts to study and uncover the differences.

Drugs and Neurotransmission

The brain is made up of hundreds of billions of neurons that send electrical and chemical signals known as neurotransmitters between one another. The brain is like a complex circuit board that can change, grow and reconfigure itself to adapt to any situation or environment. When drugs enter the picture, they disrupt the natural flow of brain activity and essentially hijack the whole system. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and glutamate are all responsible for how we think, feel, learn and retain memories.

Dopamine is responsible for the pleasure and reward system, bodily movements, attention and memory, and almost all drugs affect dopamine in the brain. When drugs negatively affect dopamine, people can lose memories or be unable to make new ones, be unable to focus on any given task and have trouble controlling their bodies’ movements. Ecstasy, LSD and cocaine disrupt serotonin, which can cause severe mood swings, sleep disorders and changes in sexual desire and even appetite. Other drugs can cause severe anxiety, slowed brain activity, impaired cognition and anesthesia so the muscles relax, pain is not felt, memories are lost and the user slips in and out of consciousness.

How these drugs uniquely affect the brain activity of men over women needs continued research to unveil all the facts. However, research suggests that the differences between men and women play a significant role in how drugs cause different effects.

Help Finding Treatment for Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is a medically recognized brain disease that requires professional treatment to bring about long-term recovery. People can and do recover from addiction every day through residential rehab programs that are operated by licensed, professional organizations. Rehab helps people learn how drugs affect them and the problems they can cause if such drug abuse continues. Through group therapy and one-on-one treatment sessions, recovering addicts can equip themselves with the necessary tools to reach recovery and to overcome future relapse triggers.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction and needs help, then please call our toll-free helpline now. Our admissions coordinators are standing by 24 hours a day to help you find a professional treatment program that will work for you. Beat addiction as soon as possible and call us today.