News Release

June 17, 2004

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Study Finds Gender Differences in Drug Dependency

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Men and women become addicted to drugs at about the same age, and the gravity of their addiction is similar. But the women experience more severe psychiatric, medical and employment complications, and seek treatment sooner than men, according to a study published in the current issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study adds to the growing evidence that suggests women may be more vulnerable to the addictive and toxic effects of alcohol and drugs, and progress more rapidly into the medical and psychosocial complications of substance abuse.

“In older generations, women generally started regular use of addictive substances at an older age. Today women appear to start using drugs and/or alcohol at a younger age, like men,” said lead investigator Carlos Hernandez-Avila, M.D., in the Department of Psychiatry, and the Alcohol Research Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center. “This is a worrisome trend that seems to show drugs are currently more acceptable and more available to younger women.”

“These findings may help us understand the differences between substance-dependent men and women and help identify the causes of these disorders,” he said. “They may also help to support more aggressive prevention efforts among women at risk and create gender-specific treatment for drug and alcohol dependence.”

The study included 271 participants, 156 female and 152 male, recruited through two drug treatment centers in Connecticut. Titled “Opioid-, Cannabis- and Alcohol-dependent Women Show More Rapid Progression to Substance Abuse Treatment,” the study was co-authored by Carlos Hernandez-Avila, M.D. and Henry Kranzler, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, at UConn Health Center, and Bruce Rounsaville, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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