How Drugs Affect Men’s Brains

How Drugs Affect Men’s Brains

Modern research highlights the ways drugs specifically affect men’s brains and body chemistry

Until the 1990s, researchers largely excluded females from drug trials in the US, so the sex-related differences in drug effects have gone largely unidentified and unacknowledged. Since then, new studies identified gender variations and led to changes in drug prescribing practices. For example, in 2013,the US Food and Drug Administration issued new gender-specific dosage recommendations for sleep aids like Ambien and Zolpimist. Modern research highlights the ways drugs specifically affect men’s brains and body chemistry, and it notes the gender variations in drug-use behaviors.

Drugs and Male Neurobiology

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends signals throughout the central nervous system, and it plays a primary role in several neurobiological functions, including brain reward. Substances like amphetamines, opiates and depressants stimulate dopamine production, which triggers euphoric highs. Addictions to such drugs involve dysfunctional changes in the dopaminergic pathways. In terms of gender differences, recent studies found that the release of dopamine from certain substances differs between men and women in the following ways:

  • Men appear to release dopamine in the ventral striatum area of the brain, an area commonly associated with drug reinforcement
  • Women appear to release dopamine in the dorsal striatum, an area commonly associated with the formation of habits

If the findings are accurate, then the studies suggest that men are more motivated to abuse drugs to reinforce neural patterns, dependencies and substance reward. The gender differences involve different areas of brain stimulation that can influence drug effects and motivations.

In terms of specific drug effects, a 2014 study published in the Scientific American notes the following gender differences in benzodiazepines:

  • Benzodiazepines move from the blood to the brain more quickly in men
  • Men tend to flush the drug toxins more quickly from their systems
  • Men typically experience fewer side effects and less compound dosage

Similarly, in a 2011 edition, the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology notes that men exhibit a quicker onset and offset when morphine binds to mu-opioid receptors. Men are also more likely to overdose on prescription pain medication. In a 2009 edition, the American Family Physician notes the following differences between sexes:

  • Men have more intestinal enzymatic activity and less sensitivity to certain drugs
  • Gastrointestinal motility, renal clearance and glomerular filtration rates are faster in men
  • Men typically have a larger body mass index that affects drug distribution and absorption

Neurobiological, hormonal and size differences influence the effects of drugs, including their potency, onset rate and how long the effects last. In effect, men can usually consume larger amounts of drugs that pass through their bodies more quickly, and they are commonly motivated more by drug reward reinforcement.

Patterns of Male Drug Abuse

Drugs affect male brains differently than female ones, but gender differences are also evident in common drug abuse patterns. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism highlights the following gender-specific patterns:

  • Men have higher rates of illicit drug use, while women more commonly abuse prescription drugs
  • Women typically abuse prescription drugs to self-medicate, while men do so more often to get high
  • The evidence of severe drug-related difficulties typically takes longer to manifest in male drug abusers
  • Men tend to experience less social stigmas as they pertain to substance abuse and addiction

Women are more likely to abuse drugs like Xanax to self-treat anxiety, while men are more likely to abuse the same drug to get high, but this difference does not indicate concurrent rates for addiction and anxiety. Both genders have high rates of co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders.

Addiction Rehab for Men

Regardless of gender, rehab centers offer the most effective treatment for addiction recovery. Various types of facilities exist, including programs with group therapies and other activities specifically designed for males and their distinct needs. Likewise, most facilities customize recovery plans for each patient, meaning they may utilize any of the following therapies:

  • Integrated screenings, diagnosis and care for co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that improves thoughts patterns and beliefs
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy that helps patients balance self-acceptance and the need for change
  • Motivational Interviewing that guides patients toward finding personal motivation for change
  • Positive life skills, such stress and anger management, conflict resolution and coping strategies
  • Recovery tools to identify, avoid and neutralize cues that trigger drug-use cravings
  • Holistic options, like massage, acupressure, acupuncture, yoga, meditation and non-narcotic pain management

Supervised detox typically precedes recovery treatment, and gradual dosage reductions are necessary for addiction to benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium and Klonopin to avoid protracted withdrawal symptoms and potentially fatal seizures.

Addiction Help for Men

Our admission coordinators can take your call 24 hours a day to provide information and to support your search for drug addiction treatment. They can your answer questions, discuss treatment options and, for addicts with coverage, check health insurance policies for treatment benefits. Our helpline is toll free, so give us a call now to begin recovery.

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If you are ready to beat a Xanax addiction and start a new life in recovery then we can help. We have admission counselors standing by 24 hours a day to take your email, live chat request, or phone call to get you in the addiction treatment center that best fits your unique & specific needs.