Women's hormonal cycles may not only make them prone to drug addiction but are also affected by triggers that lead to relapse, new research has found.
When fertility-related hormone levels are high, females learn faster, make stronger associations to cues in their environment and are more inclined to seek rewards, according to a study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
Women represent a particularly vulnerable population, with higher rates of addiction following exposure to drugs, said researcher Erin Calipari, Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University in the US.
"Women becoming addicted to drugs may be a fundamentally different process than men," she said. "It's important to understand this, because it's the first step in developing treatments that are actually effective," Calipari said.
The next step, she said, would be to figure out specifics of how hormonal shifts affect women's brains and, ultimately, develop medications that could help override those.