Women and Cocaine
Research shows that women have a different reaction to cocaine than men. They also often start using cocaine for different reasons. The study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that the gender differences will soon contribute to differences in treatments for men and women.
Women and Cocaine: The Study
In the study funded by NIDA, participants were given doses of a placebo powder on some days, and on others they were given cocaine. The responses of men and women were measured, including the different reactions in women both on and off their menstrual cycle. The results indicate that women are less sensitive to cocaine than men, regardless of what point in their menstrual cycle they were on. Men reacted more intensely, and even though everyone was given equal doses of the drug, women appeared to have less of it in their blood stream.
Women and Cocaine: Metabolism
The differences in metabolism may have a lot to do with the fact that men and women react differently to cocaine. Women seem to metabolize cocaine faster, perhaps because they have higher concentrations of cholinesterase. Cholinesterase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down drugs like cocaine.
Women and Cocaine: Menstruation
During menstruation, women undergo a lot of physical and hormonal changes, which may explain why they are less sensitive to cocaine. For example, during a woman’s monthly cycle, her nasal passages secrete more mucous. The mucous acts as a barrier to cocaine being absorbed through the lining of the drug.
Women and Cocaine: Frequency of Use
More women report that they do not experience a high the first time that they use cocaine. This may explain why in general, there are many more male users of cocaine than there are female users.
Women and Cocaine: Brain Effects
Although cocaine affects women less strongly in general than it does in men, certain parts of a women’s brain may be affected more strongly. Researchers have found that when women do cocaine, they have a marked decrease in the neural activity in the amygdala. They amygdala is involved in controlling social and sexual behaviors and emotions. This may explain why when women do cocaine, they are more likely to engage in risky behavior, especially risky sexual behavior, than are men on the same dose.
Women and Cocaine: Reasons for Using
There are also different reasons that women begin using cocaine. Women tend to feel much more pressure to be thin. They may use cocaine in order to lose weight. Also, the intense and unrealistic pressure that women feel regarding their appearance can cause feelings of worthlessness, uselessness, despair and self-loathing. This can fuel drug use, especially with drugs that decrease appetite and increase metabolism, like cocaine. Even though women feel fewer and less effects from cocaine than do men, the added desire to stay trim can drive an intense addiction that would have otherwise fizzled out. Thus, the reasons that women become addicted to cocaine may be more psychological than physical.