Main Menu
Categories Menu

How Drugs Affect Men’s Brains

How Drugs Affect Men’s Brains

Emerging research is demonstrating that male and female brains may react differently to substances of abuse like clonazepam

Males and females demonstrate different patterns in their abuse of and addiction to drugs and alcohol. It is likely that social factors play a role, but biological factors may also be significant. Drugs and alcohol sometimes affect the brains and bodies of male and female users in different ways.

Gender Differences in Drug Abuse and Addiction

A 2014 Treatment Episode Data Set report  notes the following gender differences related to drug and alcohol abuse.

  • Among youths aged 12 to 17, the rate of substance dependence is equal for both genders, but in individuals aged 18 or older, men experience substance dependence at almost twice the rate of women. In 2011, there were twice as many male admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities than female admissions.
  • In general, males are more likely to use marijuana and alcohol, but in the 12 to 17 age group, females are more likely to report alcohol as their primary substance of abuse, and men more likely to report abuse of marijuana.
  • Females are more likely to abuse prescription drugs. In patients aged 65 or older, females were almost three times as likely as men to report abuse of prescription pain relievers.
  • Females aged 18 to 24 reported abuse of amphetamine or methamphetamine more often than their male counterparts.

Brain Effects of Drug Abuse

Drugs like clonazepam affect the brain in complex ways. A publication by the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that one significant mode of action is for a drug to tap into the brain’s communication system. Messages are sent from one nerve cell (neuron) to another through chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Receptor cells are equipped with neurotransmitter binding sites, and some drugs mimic neurotransmitters and bind to these sites. Others raise the amount of specific neurotransmitters in other ways.

Many factors contribute to the development of addiction. One is that the body initiates changes to adapt to out-of-balance neurotransmitter levels, and eventually, levels are only in the normal range when the drug is present in the body. Withdrawal symptoms occur when it is not. Another factor is that drugs and alcohol damage parts of the brain related to judgement, memory and self-control.

How Male and Female Brains Differ

The brains of men and women may respond to the same substance in different ways because the brains themselves differ. A 2014 Psychology Today article notes that approximately 100 differences in the brains of males and females have been discovered. These include the following:

  • Size – Male brains tend to be about ten percent larger than female brains.
  • Distribution of gray and white matter – Gray matter areas are localized processing centers in specific parts of the brain. White matter is the part of the brain that networks and connects the gray matter and other processing center with each other. Male brains contain over six times as much gray matter as female brains, and female brains have over nine times as much white matter as do their male counterparts.
  • Hemispheric division of labor – The left and right hemispheres of male and female brains perform slightly different functions. Females, for example, have verbal centers on both sides while males tend to have a verbal center only in the left hemisphere.
  • Chemical processing – Males and females have differing levels of neurochemicals and process them differently.
  • Hippocampal volume – The hippocampus is the memory center and is often larger in females and has a higher density of neural connections.

How Male and Female Brains React to Substance Abuse

Research into gender differences in the effect of specific substances like clonazepam on the brain is limited, but understanding is growing. A 2013 BU Today article reported on a study involving brain imaging of men and women who had once been heavy drinkers. The images showed that length of time abusing alcohol correlated with smaller areas of white matter. In men, the loss was seen in the corpus callosum region, but in women, the effects were focused in the cortex. The study also found gender differences in brain healing. Restoration of the white matter appears to occur more quickly for women than for men. Men showed no recovery of white matter until after a year of abstinence.

Studies have also demonstrated differences in the brains of male and female smokers. A 2014 article in the Hartford Courant reports on a Yale study finding that the neurotransmitter dopamine is activated at different rates and in different brain locations when men and women smoke. Dopamine is activated in men in an area of the brain that reinforces a drug’s effects. In women, the part of the brain associated with habit formation is affected.

We Can Help

If you are struggling with addiction to drugs like clonazepam and are ready for treatment, we can help you find it. Our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day, and our consultants are always ready to answer your questions. They can check your insurance coverage for you if you wish, at no cost or obligation, and can help you identify your treatment options. You can reclaim your brain and body from the control of drugs or alcohol. Call now, and let us help.