Alcohol, one of the most frequently abused substances, appears to be twice as dangerous for men as women. Men develop alcoholism twice as often as women, and until now, the reasoning behind this was unknown.
Researchers conducted a new study, published in Biological Psychiatry, explaining the importance and effects of dopamine.
Male and female alcohol drinkers in their early 20s were analyzed by researchers from Columbia and Yale, and performed alcohol consumption tests for this study. Following consumption of a drink, either alcohol or not, a PET scan, or positron emission tomography scan, was performed on each individual to determine how much alcohol-induced dopamine was released.
Dopamine affects the brain is a variety of ways, but it is important for this study since the pleasurable effects upon release are caused by positive experiences like drugs or sex.
Although alcohol consumption was similar between men and women, dopamine release was greater in men. This difference was noticed in the ventral striatum, the part of the brain mainly linked to addiction and pleasure.
Another important finding from this study was, with continuous heavy drinking, a decrease in alcohol-induced dopamine release was evident. This alone may be a reason why individuals develop alcohol tolerance or form alcohol addictions.
Researchers explain this as an effective study, helping uncover how alcohol affects gender differently.