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Drug Cravings

Drug Cravings: Researchers Say Women's Are Triggered by Stress; Men Get Triggered by Drug Cues

posted 12:10 AM EST, Tue January 31, 2012
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Want to get and stay clean? If you’re a man, then you’d better work on minimizing your exposure to drug cues and if you’re a woman it’s stress that you’ve got to watch out for.

Yale University researchers say that when it comes to drug cravings, men and women just aren’t the same.

The Experiment

In an experiment, the research team had 30 cocaine addicted men and women and 36 recreational drinker control subjects submit to MRI scans.

While they were being scanned, each subject was presented with personally relevant stress or drug cues (or alcohol cues for the control subjects).

The Results

  • The cocaine dependent subjects showed far greater activation in areas of the brain linked to addiction and motivation after exposure to drug and stress cues than the control subjects.
  • Male cocaine dependent subjects showed greater activation in these brain areas upon presentation of drug cues.
  • Female cocaine dependent subjects showed greater brain activation in these areas upon presentation of stress cues.


The researchers say that based on the findings of the study it looks like men and women have differing addiction treatment needs. They suggest that men might benefit most from cognitive behavioral therapy and 12 steps participation and women might benefit most therapies which reduce stress and help people learn to manage stress related drug cravings.

The full research results can be found in the Jan 31 online edition of American Journal of Psychiatry.

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Story Highlights
  • Cocaine Cravings: Men experience cravings triggered by drug cues
  • Stress: Women experience more drug cravings in response to life-stress.
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