Recent research by our rehab experts has shown that there are lots of differences when it comes to male and female response to the abuse of cocaine. In general, abuse of cocaine is associated with enhanced sensitivity to stress, and excessive drug craving. However, we found women to have an increased stress induced craving combined with pituitary-adrenal reactivity which leads to relapse during rehabilitation attempts. We realized that in order to have any success with female cocaine addiction victims at our drug rehab centers in Missouri, these dynamics must be well understood.
Relationship between sex steroid hormones and cocaine craving in women
In our study, women who had low levels of progesterone (n<5), were compared to those with high levels of progesterone (n>5). A third group with high levels of both progesterone and estradiol was also exposed to cocaine. It was found that the women with the high levels of the two hormones got more intense stress and drug-cue related cocaine cravings. They also got more affected by anxiety and had more profound cardiovascular responses. This led to us concluding that women can be more vulnerable to substance abuse issues at certain times of their menstrual cycle more than others.
What this means for relapse susceptibility
These findings led to us concluding that women are more susceptible to cocaine relapses than men. The probability of a relapse also increases depending on the levels of the hormones in the female body, which means that watching the females carefully during times such as when they are on their menses will help lower the possibility of relapses. As a rehab center:
- We have put in measures to make sure that women under our rehabilitation program are monitored, especially during the times when they are most susceptible. This is the surest way to protect them from relapse temptations.
- We have put in place measures to counsel women who deal with excessive emotional issues such as PMS. We do this in a bid to make sure that women aren’t left to their own self-medication devices to deal with the extra stress that comes with these conditions.
- We have also established that social factors such as cocaine being viewed as one of the glamorous drugs makes it hard to quit. We help women dissociate from these stereotypes and make better judgment.
This direct link between progesterone and behavioral response to cocaine withdrawal and susceptibility means that more research needs to be done to come up with appropriate solutions for the craving problem in females. Currently, there aren’t any drugs that have been approved by the food and drug administration for the treatment of cocaine addiction. This means that only behavioral approaches are deemed safe to use. However, behavioral conditioning may not combat the effects of female steroid hormones, which means that more specific treatments need to be rolled out.