Estrogen may protect against cocaine-induced brain dysfunction

Estrogen appears to counteract the addictive drugs restriction of blood flow to the brain. These findings may also lead to treatments for age-associated blood flow abnormalities.

PITTSBURGH, Pa. The Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that the number of chronic cocaine users in the United States stands at 3.6 million. The National Institute on Drug Abuse asserts that men are more prone to use and addiction; now, a team of researchers believe that women users have an added edge their physiological profile may shield them from cocaines brain altering effects. Additionally, this research may lead to a new therapy that may help cocaine users "kick the habit," a difficult challenge under any circumstance.

Researchers have known that women are less inclined to be a victim of vascular disorders caused by chronic use of the drug. What the scientific community did not know was why. Now, a team of medical researchers affiliated with Harvard University Medical School has found that during the first half of a womens menstrual cycle, the susceptibility to vascular dysfunction may be lower than the corresponding propensity for male users. Only in the latter stages of the menstrual cycle did women experience a significant degree of vasoconstriction (restriction of blood flow to the brain).

"Cocaine-Induced Cerebral Vasoconstriction Differs as a Function of Sex and Menstrual Cycle Phase" is the subject of a study recently conducted by Marc J. Kaufman, Jonathan M. Levin, Luis C. Maas, Thellea J. Kukes, Rosemond A. Villafuerte, Kerstin Dostal, Scott E. Lukas, Jack H. Mendelson, Bruce M. Cohen and Perry F. Renshaw. Their findings, published in the May 1, 2001 edition of Biological Psychiatry, are being presented at the upcoming conference, Genomes and Hormones: An Integrative Approach to Gender Differences in Physiology, sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS) October 17-20, 2001, at the Westin Convention Center

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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