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Alcohol Awareness Month: Women seek more pleasure from alcohol than men, says study
Posted in Addiction, Treatment

In America, no celebration seems to be complete without alcohol. People do not realize that this casual habit often results in an addiction. After consuming alcohol, people report of feelings of pleasure due to chemicals released in specific brain locations. However, excessive drinking can lead to hazardous effects. With an increasing number of Americans succumbing to drinking-related problems, it is necessary for people to be aware of the harmful effects of alcohol and of various recovery options.

To talk about the need to reach out to various American communities and inform them about alcohol, alcoholism and recovery, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) observes Alcohol Awareness Month in April every year.

Gender differences in reward seeking behavior from alcohol

A recent research by the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) has suggested how alcohol can have differing effects on the reward system centers in the brain of women compared to men.

The study, titled “Gender dimorphism of brain reward system volumes in alcoholism,” reported how alcoholic women have larger reward system structures compared to their non-alcoholic counterparts. The study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging in March 2017, furthers the observations made in previous researches about reward system structures being reduced in size in alcoholic men than non-alcoholics. An examination of the brain’s reward system showed that amygdala and hippocampus are involved in the development of substance abuse disorders apart for being necessary for memory and decision making abilities.

Examining reward system structures in response to drinking

As part of the study, the researchers enrolled 30 men and as many women with a history of prolonged alcoholism. The researchers took into consideration an equivalent number of non-alcoholic volunteers. The respondents with history of alcoholism had refrained from drinking for varying time periods ranging between a month and 38 years. The respondents’ medical histories, neuropsychological evaluations and MRI brain scans helped the researchers observe structural changes in their brains.

Elaborating on the necessity of conducting so many examinations, one of the co-authors of the study Gordon J. Harris said, “Until now, little has been known about the volume of the reward regions in alcoholic women, since all previous studies have been done in men. Our findings suggest that it might be helpful to consider gender-specific approaches to treatment for alcoholism.”

Understanding effect of alcohol on structure of brain

The researchers observed an adverse relationship between the duration of sobriety and the dimensions of fluid-filled ventricles in the brain’s center. Based on this observation, the authors suggested possible recuperation of the overall brain from the impact of alcoholism over a period. The MRI scans taken during the study revealed 4.4 percent larger average sizes of the brain structures in alcoholic women than non-alcoholic women. The scan results were a stark contrast to those observed in male respondents with average sizes of reward brain regions being 4.1 percent smaller than those of non-alcoholic men.

In addition, the researchers observed that among both the male and female respondents affected by alcoholism, every year of sobriety was linked to a 1.8 percent reduction in the size of the brain ventricles, thus indicating that it is possible to recover from the brain damage resulting from alcoholism.

Recovery from alcoholism possible

The researchers also informed that they could not determine from the study if the differences existed prior to or resulted from the development of alcoholism. Stressing on the same, one of the co-authors of the study Marlene Oscar-Berman said, “We’re planning to take a more detailed look at the impact of factors such as the severity of drinking and the length of sobriety on specific brain structure.”

Sovereign Health of Texas examines its patients for signs of alcohol abuse before recommending the necessary interventions – pharmacological or behavioral. For more information about residential addiction treatment centers in the U.S., call us at our 24/7 helpline or chat online for expert advice about our programs, which are considered among the best of all the Texas addiction treatment centers.

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