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Estrogen tied to drug vulnerability. (Hormones).

Estrogen may make the brain more vulnerable to addiction, with the effects of heightened susceptibility persisting even in the hormone's absence, according to a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, study for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "These new findings suggest that, when it comes to drug use. Women should be extremely cautious, especially younger women who may be experiencing major hormonal swings at just the same time in their lives when many of their peers are first experimenting with nicotine, cocaine, and other addictive substances." Cautions biopsychologist Jill B. Becker.

A series of studies on approximately 200 rats showing that female ones who received estrogen as well as cocaine over a period of three weeks exhibit 20-50% more "sensitization" than either female rats who did not receive estrogen or males. Sensitization was measured by quantifying repetitive movements of the head and forelimbs, and turning in circles. Drug sensitization is thought to cause craving for a drug like cocaine, Becker notes. For example, rats who are sensitized after repeated drug doses learn to self-administer cocaine faster and at lower doses than other animals. These changes in behavior persisted after the female rats, all of whose ovaries had been surgically removed, stopped receiving estrogen.

"We know from other studies that sensitization to cocaine results in structural changes in the brain that persist for some time," Becker indicates. "Our results suggest that estrogen not only affects the acute response to cocaine, but also intensifies the long-term changes that occur in the brain. These results are important for our understanding of the basic neural processes that lead to drug addiction, and for our understanding of why some individuals may be more at risk than others."
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Title Annotation:medical research
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Previous Article:Women must read labels carefully. (Medication).
Next Article:Minorities less likely to survive cancer. (Mortality).

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