Sex differences in the vulnerability to drug abuse: A review of preclinical studies

Megan E. Roth, Kelly P. Cosgrove, Marilyn E. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

189 Scopus citations


Clinical and preclinical findings indicate that males and females differ on several aspects of drug reinforcement. Females are more vulnerable than males during transition periods of drug use that are characteristic of drug addiction and relapse. Females are also more sensitive than males to the reinforcing effects of stimulants. It has been suggested that ovarian hormones contribute to the mechanisms of action underlying these sex differences. This review examines the preclinical literature on sex differences and ovarian hormonal influences on drug self-administration in animals. It summarizes the findings on the effects of these variables during different phases of drug addiction. Possible differences in the mechanisms of action of drugs of abuse due to interactions with sex differences or ovarian hormonal factors are considered. The animal literature on sex differences in drug abuse treatment effectiveness is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-546
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to Dr Celia Wolk-Gershenson, Dr Jonathan Gewirtz, Dr J. Bruce Overmier, Dr Lisa M. Schrott, Erin Larson and Paula Whitten for their editorial assistance on this manuscript. This work was supported by NIDA grants R37 DA03240, K05 DA15267, R01 DA02486 (M.E.C.), F31 DA14161 (M.E.R.), and NIAAA grant F31 AA005575 (K.P.C.).


  • Addiction
  • Animal models
  • Drug abuse
  • Estrogen
  • Gender
  • Ovarian hormones
  • Progesterone
  • Self-administration
  • Sex differences
  • Treatment


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex differences in the vulnerability to drug abuse: A review of preclinical studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this