Monday, June 30, 2014

Psychotropic Drugs Affect Men and Women Differently

Prescription painkillers, antidepressants and other brain drugs have gender-specific effects  


Sex differences in the body's response to medication have long been overlooked. In fact, until the 1990s women were banned from participating in clinical trials in the U.S. Yet women are now almost twice as likely to be prescribed psychotropic medication as men, and research suggests that their different hormones, body composition and metabolism may make them more sensitive to certain drugs. Further, women are between 50 and 75 percent more likely to experience side effects. Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the first sex-specific dosing guidelines for a psychopharmaceutical drug: the sleep medicine Ambien was discovered to be doubly potent for women. Here are a few of the medications that are known to act differently in men and women—but research is just beginning.

Prescription painkillers

• Women experience greater pain relief from opioid painkillers, perhaps because estrogen, which fluctuates during menstrual cycles, modulates the pain response.

• Men are more likely to overdose on painkillers than women. But women have a harder time quitting. Once addicted, they are more likely to relapse—particularly in the middle of the menstrual cycle, when glucose in the brain is lower. Glucose is necessary for self-control.

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