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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 Apr;185(3):348-57. Epub 2006 Mar 3.

Gender differences in cardiovascular and corticoadrenal response to stress and drug cues in cocaine dependent individuals.

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  • 1Substance Abuse Center, Connecticut Mental Health Center, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, 34 Park Street, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.



Extensive research suggests that gender may affect neuroendocrine and cardiovascular arousal mechanisms underlying biological responses to stress.


To examine the impact of gender on response to stress and to drug-cue exposure in treatment-seeking cocaine abusers.


Fifty recently abstinent cocaine dependent individuals (25F/25M), who were matched on cocaine use history, were exposed to a brief guided-imagery procedure that involved imagining a recent personal stressful situation, a personal drug-related situation and neutral-relaxing situation, one imagery per session, presented in random order. Subjective craving and anxiety, cardiovascular measures and plasma adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), cortisol and prolactin were assessed.


Males showed significantly higher levels of ACTH, cortisol, and SBP, both at baseline and following all three imagery conditions. Females showed significantly higher basal heart rate and prolactin, although no gender differences were observed following imagery. No gender differences were seen in subjective anxiety or cocaine craving.


Results indicate significant gender differences in baseline sensitivity and subsequent variations in hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and cardiovascular response to imagery challenge. Such gender-specific responses could have implications for the development of pharmacological treatments that address stress and drug-cue-related relapse in cocaine-abusing individuals.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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