Cocaine and Gender: It Matters

September 14, 2012 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Brain images show that stress induces women's cocaine cravings

“It’s just a matter of will power.”  If you have an addiction, how many times have you heard this?  If you’re not an addict, has this thought crossed your mind or this clause ever escaped your lips?  While using a drug does, indeed, contain some element of choice, it’s far more complicated than that.

In 2010, about 22.6 million or 8.9 percent of Americans over age 12 had used an illicit drug or misused a prescribed medication in the past month. And drugs do not discriminate.  While the largest population using drugs are people in their late teens and early twenties, people in their fifties have increased their drug use significantly in the past four years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug-related deaths have more than doubled since the early 1980s. More deaths–one in every four--and disabilities occur as a result of substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition. Cocaine, because of the immense euphoric experience it creates, and due to its effect on the brain when used, presents unique challenges when it comes to quitting.

Cocaine affects dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical released into the space between brain nerve cells in response to pleasurable stimuli, for instance, when the smell of bread baking reminds us of good childhood memories, or when we look at photos of our latest exotic vacation. Our nerve cells typically re-absorb that released dopamine to put us back at baseline.  Cocaine, however, binds with the receptors that the dopamine uses to re-absorb it, leaving the dopamine in the space between nerve cells, thus prolonging this pleasure. Over time, this “reward center” in our brain goes haywire.  Cocaine users (and drug users in general) need more of a drug to feel the desired effect, and most things that once brought them pleasure no longer do.

A study published earlier this year, however, notes one thing that does matter when it comes to cocaine use:  gender. The functional MRI images of more than thirty subjects who were cocaine dependent revealed that craving involves different parts of the brain for men and women.  Drug cues, such as pictures of the drug or drug paraphernalia, stimulated certain areas of men’s brains, while stress cues, such as pictures of a personally-indicated stressful situation, stimulated different areas of the women’s brains. This study has major implications in creating effective treatments for men and women who are cocaine dependent.  Women may benefit more from stress-reduction measures to reduce cravings, while men may benefit more from traditional treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or a 12-step program.

Treatment aside, the good news is that although drug use is on the rise, cocaine use declined significantly from 2008 to 2009, in children and teens, at least. Rates of cocaine use in 12th and 10th graders dropped in half within the year, and rates decreased in 8th graders by about a third. Cocaine use spurs problems like cardiovascular crisis, depression and suicide (from withdrawal).  It also encourages paranoia.  Regardless of drug used, addiction hampers performance, impairs relationships and may result in death from chronic use, overdose or withdrawal.  Discerning effective treatments will help tame this beast that robs people of effective functioning, and steals life–literally or emotionally– from those who use and from those who love them.  


About The Author

Diane Dean is a registered nurse, licensed professional counselor and professionally-trained coach who likes to write about mental and physical health, communication, personal life enrichment and non-conventional healing. Please visit the following sites for more information on additions and other health issues: www.healthline.com, www.drugabuse.gov, and www.samhsa.gov.

 


Battling Obvious Signs of Aging with Hair Restoration

September 12, 2012 by  
Filed under AGING, HEALTHCARE

hair lossDo you spend a fortune on anti-aging skin care products?  Did you let your neighbor bully you into joining a walking club so you can tone that saggy belly?  Why have you paid attention to every other aspect of your appearance, yet ignore the growing bald spot on the top of your head?  Let’s face it; all the anti-aging theories in the world won’t eradicate the one thing that truly shows your age the most – thinning hair.

If you’ve been debating about whether or not you want to fix your hair loss problem, now is the time to make a move.  Hair restoration efforts work infinitely better if you start them early. 

Restoration for Temporary Hair Loss

Luckily, a lot of hair loss issues are temporary.  There are a myriad of factors that can instigate temporary hair loss:

  • Shock to the system like a death in the family, surgery, car crash, or metabolic disturbance
  • Hormonal changes or imbalances associated with the onset of menopause (at this point you won’t be worried about the effects of pregnancy or birth control!)
  • Hair treatments like dying, tinting, bleaching, or straightening that are used in excess or used incorrectly
  • Poor nutrition (like an inadequate consumption of protein and iron) and unhealthy dieting techniques (fad diets, crash diets, and eating disorders)
  • Side effect of medication or illness (like diabetes, lupus, and hyperthyroidism)

Your doctor can help you find a hair restoration option for this temporary situation.  He or she may prescribe an alternate medication that won’t have hair loss as a side effect.  Your doctor may recommend a daily vitamin supplement to help with your condition.  Or, you doctor may simply advice you to remain calm and let time rectify the situations you can’t control.

Restoration for Permanent Hair Loss

Unfortunately, there is one type of hair loss that is permanent.  As of now, there is no cure for male and female pattern baldness. 

For males, the first signs of pattern baldness emerge as a receding hairline and/or thinning at the crown.  Females generally experience thinning at all areas of the scalp. 

There are a lot of unanswered questions about male and female pattern baldness.  For the most part, doctors believe it is a genetic issue.  It is said that certain scalps are genetically-prone to baldness.  The condition causes the growth cycle to shorten.  Hairs are rooted superficially and aren’t as thick or sturdy as they once were.  Eventually, the follicles deteriorate and fail to produce hair at all.

There are two ways to restore hair health.  The first mode is referred to as non-surgical hair restoration.  Non-surgical hair restoration usually involves medication.  The FDA has approved an oral pill (finasteride) and a topical cream (minoxidil). 

The second method is called surgical hair restoration (or hair transplantation).  Hairs naturally grow in small groupings of one to four hairs (called a follicular unit).  The most technologically advanced hair transplant relocates these natural groupings in a procedure called follicular unit transplantation.  During this procedure, hairs are removed from a healthy donor site – generally the back or sides of the scalp where growth is plentiful.  Then, these individual follicular units are relocated into the recipient site (or balding area).  

No matter which restoration method is right for you – whether it be simple lifestyle changes, topical medication, or surgery – start the process as soon as possible.  The earlier you acknowledge the problem and get help, the more successful the treatment process will be. 

About The Author:

Guest blogger Dr. Mary Tejada works at a clinic that specializes in Tampa hair restorations.  She regularly helps patients find a hair loss treatment for their temporary or permanent situation.

 

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.