I think it’s safe to say in this day and age, many of us have at some point been offered cocaine or just been around it in some way.
While I’m not here to judge, I do want to make you aware of a new study in the journal Nature Communication that shows experimenting with cocaine during Week 2 of your cycle (the week leading up to and including ovulation) can lead to an actual addiction with the drug.
Why? The study authors explain that high estrogen in your Week 2 triggers a bigger surge of dopamine–a brain chemical that gives you a pleasurable, rewarding sensation–in response to cocaine. Plus, this homone lengthens the amount of time dopamine stays in the synapse between brain cells. As a result, you get a bigger, longer high from the drug, which can make you want to do it more or, if you’re struggling to quit, make it more difficult to stop.
As the study authors point out, this is probably the reason behind why women are more likely than men to transition from experimental or recreational drug use to full-blown addiction–and have a more difficult time kicking the habit for good.
And, because of the way estrogen intensifies pleasurable sensations in your Week 2, this threat of addiction most likely also applies to other substances that provide a pleasant feeling, such as certain illegal or pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, caffeine and even gambling.
Why would our brains be wired to react this way to pleasure-inducing activities? Because we experience the same dopamine surge from engaging in sex, researchers theorize that this may be one way that evolution ensures we seek out a mate in time for ovulation to promote the survival of the species. It’s an unfortunate downside that this same save-the-species wiring can also lead to a health-wrecking, even deadly, addiction.
The study authors are hoping to use this information to help women who want to end their drug addiction, for instance, by possibly taking a hormone birth control that blunts estrogen’s Week 2 peak, making it easier to steer clear of the drug.
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Gabrielle Lichterman is a longtime women’s health and lifestyle journalist whose articles have appeared in dozens of major magazines and newspapers around the globe including Cosmopolitan, CosmoGIRL, Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Daily News and Woman’s World. Gabrielle began developing Hormonology® and the Hormone Horoscope® in 1999 and has been sharing menstrual cycle-related research and tips through her apps, blog, book, newsletter and magazine articles ever since.
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