There are plenty of areas of gender inequality that still need to be addressed. Just to cite a few examples, women are still earning less than men, directing fewer movies than men and shivering at the office because dudes insist on keeping the AC at Arctic-level temperatures. One thing women appear to be stuck with, though, is that the symptoms of drug abuse are more severe in women than men. A new study helps explain why.

Shades of Gray

According to researchers at the University of Colorado School

of Medicine, women previously addicted to cocaine, meth or amphetamines show a significantly smaller amount of gray matter in the brain than men who also abused those drugs. In fact, the addicted men’s brains looked just like those of a healthy, non-druggin’ guy! Whoever said biology isn’t sexist?

What is gray matter, you may ask? It’s the area of the brain that basically makes our basic senses work properly (you can thank gray matter for your ability to see, smell, hear, touch, talk and cry at sappy romantic comedies) and controls our muscles. Seems like having an adequate amount of the gray stuff is pretty important.

The CU researchers analyzed MRI brain scans of 28 ladies and 31 gentlemen—all of whom had previously abused the aforementioned drugs for at least 16 years but had been sober for over a year at the time of the scan. The study also included a control group of 68 healthy, non-addicts who were similar in age to th
ose who had been addicted to drugs. Compared to both the healthy group and the male former addicts in the study, the used-to-be druggie gals had measurably less gray matter.

“Vast changes in [gray matter volume]were observed in women with stimulant dependence after prolonged abstinence, but were not observed in men,” the study concludes.

Harder to Quit