Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Women, Cigarettes, and Meth
More bad news for young female addicts.
A blizzard of research findings this year continues to demonstrate that women have gender-specific issues to deal with when it comes to cigarettes and speed. None of the findings have anything to do with the old canard that women cannot “hold their liquor,” or do drugs like men do. Women hold their liquor fine, on a pound for pound basis. And women are well represented, presently, among the ranks of alcoholics. That is unfortunate, since a great deal of research has shown that alcohol causes neurological damage in women more quickly than in men. And now comes more evidence that women don’t respond metabolically to cigarettes and speed the same as men, either.
Start with cigarettes: Women who begin smoking have a great risk of heart attack than men who take up the addiction—but scientists don’t know exactly why. Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of female deaths in the developed world. One theory is that smoking lowers levels of “good” cholesterol more markedly in women than in men. This is not news, but preliminary research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism now appears to show that teenaged girls in Australia were more sensitive to the effects of second-hand smoke than teenaged boys. If true, it could mean that “childhood passive smoke exposure may be a more significant cardiovascular risk factor for women than men,” lead author Chi Le-Ha said in a press release.
And there’s more bad news: Research published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, suggests that women who continue to smoke during pregnancy increase the risk for obesity and diabetes in their unborn daughters. Kristin Mattsson of Lund University in Sweden, along with Matthew Longnecker and members of the National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina, reported that data from the Medical Birth Register of Sweden showed that the risk (odds ratio) of gestational diabetes increased 52-62 per cent for women exposed to moderate or heavy smoking while in the womb. After adjusting the data for a host of outside factors, the researchers also concluded that women exposed to moderate amounts of smoking while in the womb were 36 per cent more likely to become obese, while the daughters of heavy smokers during pregnancy were 58 per cent more likely to be obese compared to non-smokers in the study.
Again, researchers are not quite sure what accounts for this effect. The researchers suggest a variety of possible answers: Alterations in appetite regulation, death of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, gene transcription changes causing the formation of fat cells, and epigenetic changes. But it may be that other factors—undetected differences in nutrition, extent of prenatal care, neglect, abuse, and many other variables—make it difficult to determine the major difference in outcomes between smoking and non-smoking families. Nailing down these risk factors becomes all the more important as young women in countries all around the world take up daily smoking in greater numbers than ever. The authors emphasize the importance of recognizing such long-term detrimental effects on offspring.
As for methamphetamine: A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, conducted by the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine, followed a group of adolescents in treatment for methamphetamine addiction. They found that girls were more likely to continue using meth during treatment than boys. Overall, boys returned twice as many meth-free urine samples as the girls in the program. Lead author Keith Heinzerling said in a prepared statement that the findings may have significant implications for treatment: “The greater severity of methamphetamine problems in adolescent girls compared to boys, combined with results of studies in adults that also found women to be more susceptible to methamphetamine than men, suggests that the gender differences in methamphetamine addiction observed in adults may actually begin in adolescence.” The small NIDA-funded study, involving only 19 teenagers, also found that the antidepressant Wellbutrin, used effectively in many smoking cessation programs, was not effective in curbing use among the teen meth addicts.