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:,, and

Do drug addiction treatment programs work?

October 8, 2009 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

syringeEuropean countries are the frontrunners when it comes to drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation programs. This is due to the fact that in Europe, drug addiction is considered an illness whereas in other parts of the world, including the US, it is viewed as a crime. But are the current addiction treatment programs really working?

Researchers from the National Addiction Centre in the UK looked at more than 14,600 addicts across England. These patients were addicted to either heroin, crack cocaine or both. The patients received the following therapies:

  • Heroin addicts were treated with oral methadone for at least 6 months and also underwent counselling.
  • Crack cocaine received only psychological counselling and therapy because there is currently no recommended drug substitute for crack cocaine.

After six months, 42% of heroin users had quit whereas 57% of crack addicts also stopped using the drug. Those addicted to both drugs, however, had lower rates of quitting after 6 months.

The study concluded:

The first 6 months of pharmacological or psychosocial treatment is associated with reduced heroin and crack cocaine use, but the effectiveness of pharmacological treatment is less pronounced for users of both drugs. New strategies are needed to treat individuals with combined heroin and crack cocaine addiction.

The study was funded by Britain’s National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse to evaluate whether UK’s addiction treatment programs are working. Health experts think the results are encouraging but are cautious about the long-term outcomes. Kicking a drug habit is difficult enough. Hanging on there without going into a relapse is even more difficult. This is why addicts need ongoing care long after they have quit.

Sceptics may not be ready to believe the high rates of reported quitting. After all, addicts are quite well-known to lie and deny their habits. Let’s face it: would you believe a crack addict if he tells you face to face that he has quit? The researchers were aware of this made sure that “quitting” is not just lip service but the real thing.

When it comes to his views about drug addiction, Dr. Thomas McLellan, deputy director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy has so much in common with his European peers. He likens treating heroin and crack cocaine addicts to managing patients with diabetes or high blood pressure.

“Addiction is best thought of as a chronic condition. There is no cure, but we can manage it.”

The British government spends millions of pounds every year for drug addiction treatment programs. On average, it costs up to >5,000 ($7,991) per person per year to provide addiction treatment. Is it worth all the money and the effort? Dr. McLellan is convinced it’s all worth it. An effective drug addiction treatment program will eventually lower the social and health care costs of addiction, including crime and lost productivity, leading to “cost savings [that] will be astronomical.”

Photo credit: Stock.xchng

Drug Addiction and The Effects On Loved Ones

March 25, 2008 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

By Sandee Foxten

We were high school sweethearts. Reunited after nearly 20 years, he was the one my heart had always belonged to. Love at first site is real. That is how we fell in love. The first time we saw each other, our eyes met and from that moment on, my life has never been the same. My first marriage ended in divorce and my second marriage left me as a young widowed mother of two. About a year after my husband’s death, I got a very shocking email. He was looking for me! My high school sweetie was trying to find me and I just broke down and cried in disbelief. At the time, I thought it was fate. I was on top of the world thinking that I would finally be with that one special person I never seemed to be able to put out of my mind. After talking for awhile and getting up to date on each others lives, I learned that his life was far from joyous. At the time, he was in a place in another state that helps drug addicts. He had a job and seemed pretty stable. He told me he had been clean for two years. Not knowing anything about drugs myself, I thought that all he needed was me. I thought that as long as he had my love and knew it was true, he would never feel the need for drugs again. My entire world was fixing to be turned upside down.

After driving to another state to be reunited with my old flame, we decided that he would move to my city so we could be together. He found a job really quick, but couldn’t find a decent place to stay. So I allowed him to stay with me. That is a move that didn’t take me long to regret. Once he stayed and I was in his arms, I didn’t want to let go of him again. So my home became his home. It didn’t take long to learn that he hadn’t given up cocaine. He started staying out all night. The first time, it wasn’t just all night, he was gone for several days. The truth started becoming reality not long after that. We had went out to a bar with some friends and after a few drinks, he wanted me to take him to buy drugs. I refused and told him we were going home. On the way home, we got into a heated argument and he tried to hit me. I was driving and I pulled over on the side of the at 4am and told him to get out. I wasn’t sure who this man was, but it wasn’t somebody I loved. I felt bad and went back to pick him up. We agreed that he would leave that night. He was going to pack his clothes and I would take him to the bus station. But when we got home, he took off in one of my vehicles. After we cooled down and he got his drugs out of his system, we agreed to work it out. But things only got worse. On payday, he wouldn’t bother coming home. He was gone for the weekend, getting high. Eventually, he started stealing from me. He stole items from my home to trade for drugs or money to get drugs. He stole my credit cards and drained my bank accounts. I had to take leave from my job because the situation was so stressful.

“Baby Blue” as I call him, was honestly a good man when he was sober. Very caring, very loving and gentle. But once he started drinking and doing cocaine, he became very abusive and destructive. The situation progressively worsened. While on drugs, he would make up stuff and see things that I didn’t see. I knew it was the drugs. But he would accuse me of trying to hide things. Such as he thought I was cheating on him and that is the last thing I would do. Eventually, he took a trip back to his home state and never returned. The bad part, he stole one of my vehicles in the process. I had to drive to another state and hunt him down only to find he didn’t have my vehicle. He said he let someone drive it to the store and they never returned it. I will never forget the pain of that night. He was so strung out on drugs and I had him in my hotel room planning on having him arrested for the theft of my vehicle. It was this night that I found out what no woman would ever want to here. Never in a million years did I think one man could hurt me so much. He told me what he had been doing there those past few days and it was like someone shot a bullet right into my heart. He had been running around with a prostitute and had also been selling himself to other men for drugs. This man that I loved so much was sleeping with other men. I just wanted to die at that moment. I could not believe this was happening. What more could I do? What I did next was the hardest thing I had ever been through next to the death of my husband.

He wanted more drugs. He wanted me to take him. At first, I refused. Then after a few moments, I agreed. My intention was to find out where the drug dealer lived. I was from out of state, but I am very good at directions. I remembered the name of the road and number on the house. After returning to the hotel, he went in the bathroom and did his drug thing. That was the one that finally made him tired enough to sleep. I rubbed his back for him to ensure he would go to sleep. It was already after daybreak, so I made my move. I called the police. Within an hour, there were three police cars outside the hotel room door. I talked to them outside. They entered the room and woke him up. After asking a few questions, they decided to arrest him. He started fighting with them and I thought they were going to break his neck when they through him down on the bed. I was standing beside the wall and I just fell down on my knees begging him not to fight. As they took him away, the cops came back in to comfort me and told me to go home and to never come back. That boy was no good for me and I needed to stay away from him.

I cried all the way home, a four hour drive. I never returned to my job because the stress caused a back injury to worsen. “Baby Blue” spent four months in a detention center for theft of my vehicle. Today, he is back out on the streets and still doing drugs. I do not know what I could have done to save him. I think he is content doing what he does. As for me, my kids were far more important than having a man to love and run after. No man will ever come before my kids. My experiences have lead me to start a blog about drug and alcohol abuse. I have received great reviews for my work on this blog.

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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.