Could Sex Hormones Help Addicted Women Stop Taking Opioids?

by JasmineL on December 16, 2016 - 6:47pm

Could Sex Hormones Help Addicted Women Stop Taking Opioids?

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106825-could-sex-hormones-help-addicted-women-stop-taking-opioids

This article explores how opioid addiction physiologically affects women and proposes that sex hormones, like oestrogen and progesterone, could be successfully used to help women reduce their opioid use and abuse. The article references research that suggest that women experience stronger drug cravings than their male counterparts and that these differences could be explained by hormone changes at different times of the menstrual cycle. Researchers Lacy, Strickland, Feinstein, Robinson, and Smith (2016), found that female rats who had been taught to self-administer heroin significantly reduced their heroin intake during the phases of their menstrual cycles marked by high oestrogen and peaking progesterone levels. Because the rat’s menstrual cycle resembles the human menstrual cycle, one interpretation of this data is that hormones could be playing a large role in women’s drug cravings and habits. This conclusion is further supported by other research studies that found that female participants who were given progesterone supplements reported experiencing fewer positive feelings from taking cocaine and nicotine. I also think it’s very interesting that hormones are being used to treat drugs that are known to have different effects on the brain. Cocaine is an “upper,” characterized by increases in alertness, enhanced physical energy, and feelings of euphoria and opioids (like the heroin discussed in this article) are “downers” characterized by pain relief, feelings of sedation, muscle relaxation and disinhibition. One of the mentioned sex hormones, progesterone, is even being studied in clinical trials about treating nicotine addiction and nicotine demonstrates both “stimulant” and “depressant” qualities. If the current body of research consistently finds this connection between sex hormones and drug cravings/addiction, I wonder what applications there will be for treatment. Should doctors/counselors start recommending women attempt to quit drugs according to times in their cycles marked by high sex hormone levels associated with reduced cravings? Should hormones be administered to recovering addicts as a supplement to counseling to curb cravings? Is there an ethical way to further study the effect of sex hormones on drug cravings in humans? Especially with more dangerous drugs like opioids? 

I chose this article because I have a background in research psychology and I’m always curious about articles with suggestive titles, especially ones that hint at new discoveries in cures. A big part of my undergrad education was taking articles like this one apart piece by piece and examining the research that it cites to evaluate the article’s credibility. I really enjoyed looking at all the studies that contributed to this article and the effort that goes into testing controversial theories ethically. I also feel very strongly about addressing the physiological domain of addiction while we covered it in our nervous system module. It was interesting to read about another vital body system and its role in the development and maintenance of drug addiction. I had a very narrow view of endocrinology, especially sex hormones, and I mostly associated them with growth spurts and reproductive development before this course. Our module on endocrinology combined with the experience of reading this article have really opened me up to how much of our existence is influenced by hormones. 

 

 The implications and paths of further research for this study are numerous. I’d love to follow up on the progesterone trials for nicotine addiction and see if the results suggest a need to incorporate sex hormones in addiction treatment. I look forward to hearing all your thoughts!

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Comments

Jasmine, I'm glad you picked this article because when I first saw the title, I didn't think it would be about the same sex hormones. I thought it would say somewhere along the lines that having sex and the release of hormones can help women stop taking opioids, but it's talking about something completely different. I would have never thought that oestrogen and progesterone would play a role in decreasing drug use because when it's that time of the month, most women just want to indulge in whatever makes them feel good. In my experience, it's almost as if your hormones are telling to you take more or whatever it is that makes you happy when you have your period. The study involving female rats and the decreased heroin usage near phases with high oestrogen and peaking progesterone was very fascinating because it supports the evidence that our hormones can really guide our patterns of behaviors to a certain extent. I wonder if there are any side effects to using hormone therapy (?) for addiction. Are additional hormones needed for women to be able to take a step towards recovery during their menstrual cycle, or are their natural hormones enough? I think it's something to look into because it can be a really progressive step towards helping women overcome addiction.

Jasmine, I loved this article because it further explores the power of hormones in homeostasis of mood and cravings. I wonder if the blocking of hormone receptors by derivatives of plastics plays into the increase in addiction and mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Certainly worth investigating.

This title had me immediately invested in this article. Finding out that these hormones could help an addiction crisis that, as of right now, doesn't have many positive solutions is incredible. I feel that substituting progesterone and estrogen could be a much better alternative to the current Suboxone and Methadone treatments that are currently available to addicts. Maybe there will be better chances in preventing relapses with these sex hormones as opposed to the medications available right now, considering Suboxone and Methadone are actually partial opioid agonists. Being that these sex hormones contain no opioids, there is a better shot at getting off of them entirely without the consequences of withdrawal or even relapse. On top of all of this, these hormones could be more accessible to addicts than the current medications that are out there. While I know there are some other side effects to consider with estrogen and progesterone, if they could be used short-term, the risks may definitely be worth the benefits. I would really love to see where these long-term studies go, great article and summary Jasmine!
Side effects of progesterone: http://www.rxlist.com/prometrium-side-effects-drug-center.htm

This title had me immediately invested in this article. Finding out that these hormones could help an addiction crisis that, as of right now, doesn't have many positive solutions is incredible. I feel that substituting progesterone and estrogen could be a much better alternative to the current Suboxone and Methadone treatments that are currently available to addicts. Maybe there will be better chances in preventing relapses with these sex hormones as opposed to the medications available right now, considering Suboxone and Methadone are actually partial opioid agonists. Being that these sex hormones contain no opioids, there is a better shot at getting off of them entirely without the consequences of withdrawal or even relapse. On top of all of this, these hormones could be more accessible to addicts than the current medications that are out there. While I know there are some other side effects to consider with estrogen and progesterone, if they could be used short-term, the risks may definitely be worth the benefits. I would really love to see where these long-term studies go, great article and summary Jasmine!

I find this extremely fascinating. Who ever would have guessed that hormones from sex could help with an addiction. It seems weird that its only for woman. I wonder if men were given female sex hormones would have the same affect on their addiction? There have been so many advances in technology that the natural things our bodies produce can be found useful for all types of physical or mental issues.

I find this extremely fascinating. Who ever would have guessed that hormones from sex could help with an addiction. It seems weird that its only for woman. I wonder if men were given female sex hormones would have the same affect on their addiction? There have been so many advances in technology that the natural things our bodies produce can be found useful for all types of physical or mental issues.

I find this extremely fascinating. Who ever would have guessed that hormones from sex could help with an addiction. It seems weird that its only for woman. I wonder if men were given female sex hormones would have the same affect on their addiction? There have been so many advances in technology that the natural things our bodies produce can be found useful for all types of physical or mental issues.

I find this extremely fascinating. Who ever would have guessed that hormones from sex could help with an addiction. It seems weird that its only for woman. I wonder if men were given female sex hormones would have the same affect on their addiction? There have been so many advances in technology that the natural things our bodies produce can be found useful for all types of physical or mental issues.

I find this extremely fascinating. Who ever would have guessed that hormones from sex could help with an addiction. It seems weird that its only for woman. I wonder if men were given female sex hormones would have the same affect on their addiction? There have been so many advances in technology that the natural things our bodies produce can be found useful for all types of physical or mental issues.

I find this extremely fascinating. Who ever would have guessed that hormones from sex could help with an addiction. It seems weird that its only for woman. I wonder if men were given female sex hormones would have the same affect on their addiction? There have been so many advances in technology that the natural things our bodies produce can be found useful for all types of physical or mental issues.

I find this extremely fascinating. Who ever would have guessed that hormones from sex could help with an addiction. It seems weird that its only for woman. I wonder if men were given female sex hormones would have the same affect on their addiction? There have been so many advances in technology that the natural things our bodies produce can be found useful for all types of physical or mental issues.

I find this extremely fascinating. Who ever would have guessed that hormones from sex could help with an addiction. It seems weird that its only for woman. I wonder if men were given female sex hormones would have the same affect on their addiction? There have been so many advances in technology that the natural things our bodies produce can be found useful for all types of physical or mental issues.