October 19th, 2010
05:57 PM ET

Brain chemical may explain alcoholism gender differences

Dopamine released in the brain after alcohol consumption may contribute to the development of alcoholism and explain why more men than women are alcoholics, suggests a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

The small study examined 21 participants, men and women ages 21 to 27, over two days. The participants were all "social drinkers" with an established tolerance for alcohol. Half of the participants were given a drink containing the equivalent of three shots of vodka and the rest were given a placebo. The drinks were adjusted to the various heights and weights of the participants so that everyone received a comparable amount of alcohol. Neither group was aware of what they were drinking and the groups were switched on the second day of testing.

After having a drink, each participant was given a PET scan to measure how much dopamine the alcohol had triggered to be released in the brain.

"We showed definitively that when young college age kids drink alcohol, it's actually producing dopamine in the brain, especially in the brain region associated with experiencing pleasure and reward," explains Dr. Nina Urban, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and corresponding author of the study.

The study found that the release of dopamine in the male participants was statistically greater than the release of dopamine in the female participants. Nationally, the risk of men developing alcohol use disorders is nearly twice as high as in women.

The study also found that most of the released dopamine was concentrated in an area of the brain known as the ventral striatum. That region involves rewarding behaviors and is often implicated in the development of addiction. That led researchers to hypothesize that in the male brain, drinking alcohol led to a greater amount of dopamine being released, which led men to associate alcohol with pleasure and positive rewards, thus prompting men to drink more.

"We don't know all men will become addicts but we do know the incidence of alcoholism is higher in men then women," says Dr. Anissa Abi-Dargham, senior author of the study. "Dopamine may be related to the propensity of developing addiction."

However, the researchers also found that once drinking alcohol becomes a habit, dopamine is no longer released in the brain as much, if at all.  That suggests that when a person becomes a fully developed alcoholic, they may be hard-wired to continue their compulsive behavior, according to the researchers.

"Dopamine is important in the beginning when you're exposed to the drug," explains Dr. Abi-Dargham. But once someone becomes addicted, "the same amount of the drug [alcohol] is somehow less rewarding yet there is a compulsive need to go back and consume it."

Post by:
Filed under: Addiction • Alcohol • Brain

soundoff (454 Responses)
  1. priligy

    dapoxetine tablet dapoxetine 90 mg

    May 4, 2021 at 23:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Tires Orange County


    May 4, 2021 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Best Progressive Lenses

    I’m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is something not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I came across this in my search for something concerning this.


    May 5, 2021 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Bathroom Riverside

    Having read this I thought it was very informative. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this informative article together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!


    May 5, 2021 at 07:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. aika online private server source

    I was very happy to uncover this great site. I want to to thank you for ones time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely liked every part of it and I have you book marked to see new stuff in your web site.


    May 5, 2021 at 10:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Eye Near Me

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that will make the greatest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    May 5, 2021 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. box truck repair near me


    May 5, 2021 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. semi truck maintenance near me


    May 5, 2021 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. nursery near me

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Very well written!


    May 5, 2021 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. medium duty truck repair


    May 6, 2021 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. executive memberships


    May 6, 2021 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. dominos pizza near me

    Your style is really unique compared to other folks I've read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this page.


    May 6, 2021 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. lifestyle group


    May 6, 2021 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. rv parts indio

    I really love your site.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my own site and would love to learn where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Cheers!


    May 6, 2021 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Forklift For Sale Los Angeles


    May 6, 2021 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Gose Beer Company

    I was more than happy to find this site. I wanted to thank you for ones time just for this wonderful read!! I definitely liked every bit of it and I have you book marked to look at new things on your blog.


    May 6, 2021 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. dispensaries near me


    May 7, 2021 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. New Forklift Service Shop California

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be interesting to read through content from other authors and practice something from their sites.


    May 7, 2021 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Organic Wine Company


    May 7, 2021 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Forklift Maintenance Near Me


    May 7, 2021 at 08:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Forklift Cylinders Los Angeles

    Excellent blog you have here.. It’s difficult to find good quality writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    May 7, 2021 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Forklift For Sale


    May 7, 2021 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. chassis repair shop near me


    May 7, 2021 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Digital Marketing Specialists

    Right here is the perfect web site for anyone who would like to understand this topic. You know a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic that's been written about for a long time. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!


    May 7, 2021 at 23:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. mobile rv generator repair near me


    May 7, 2021 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Video Marketing Agency

    After looking into a handful of the blog posts on your website, I seriously appreciate your way of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my web site as well and tell me your opinion.


    May 8, 2021 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Content Marketing Ideas


    May 8, 2021 at 05:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Social Media Marketing Agencies Near Me


    May 8, 2021 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Internet Marketing Videos

    This is a topic which is close to my heart... Take care! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    May 8, 2021 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Local Marketing California

    After I initially commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me from that service? Appreciate it!


    May 8, 2021 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Fabrication California


    May 8, 2021 at 22:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Content Marketing Programs


    May 9, 2021 at 04:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Internet Marketing Consultant

    You're so awesome! I don't believe I've read a single thing like this before. So nice to discover someone with a few original thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is required on the web, someone with some originality!


    May 9, 2021 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Social Media Marketing Market


    May 9, 2021 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Digital Marketing Association


    May 9, 2021 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Internet Marketing Mechanics


    May 10, 2021 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Seo Marketing Orange County

    I like it whenever people get together and share opinions. Great website, continue the good work!


    May 10, 2021 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Digital Marketing Associations

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you should write more on this topic, it may not be a taboo matter but usually folks don't talk about such issues. To the next! All the best!!


    May 10, 2021 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Local Marketing Agency

    I quite like reading a post that will make people think. Also, thank you for permitting me to comment!


    May 10, 2021 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Internet Marketing Service

    I wanted to thank you for this good read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check out new things you post…


    May 10, 2021 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Video Marketing Program


    May 11, 2021 at 01:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Digital Marketing Firm


    May 11, 2021 at 02:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Digital Marketing Program

    This website was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Thanks!


    May 11, 2021 at 02:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Video Marketing Company

    You're so interesting! I don't think I have read anything like that before. So nice to discover another person with some unique thoughts on this issue. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is something that is required on the web, someone with a little originality!


    May 11, 2021 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Digital Marketing Agencies Near Me

    I blog frequently and I genuinely appreciate your information. This great article has really peaked my interest. I am going to book mark your site and keep checking for new details about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.


    May 11, 2021 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Local Marketing Pros


    May 11, 2021 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Social Media Marketing Agency Orange County


    May 11, 2021 at 18:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Sprinter Rust Repair Panels

    Very good blog post. I definitely love this website. Thanks!


    May 11, 2021 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. the truck shop orange


    May 12, 2021 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Bay Doors Los Angeles


    May 12, 2021 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.