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Sex differences and gender are not solely determined by biology, nor are they entirely sociocultural. The interactions among biological, environmental, sociocultural and developmental influences result in phenotypes that may be more masculine or more feminine. These gender-related sex differences in the brain can influence the responses to drugs of abuse, progressive changes in the brain after exposure to drugs of abuse and whether addiction results from drug-taking experiences.
The theme of this special issue is sex differences in the brain. This article will discuss the topic of gender and sex differences in drug addiction, our field of study, but there are similar gender and sex differences in compulsive behaviors such as gambling Potenza et al.
We define addiction as the chronic, compulsive use of a substance or engagement in a behavior, regardless of negative consequences. We use sex to refer to the characterization of an individual as female or male from biological and morphological features. As discussed below, there are similar sex differences in humans and rodents in addiction or addiction-like behaviors respectively. This suggests that there are some basic biological differences between females and males that influence how each responds to drugs of abuse and engage in addictive behaviors Becker et al.
Gender is defined as a system of social organization with a set of behavioral prescriptions that are believed to follow from biological sex characteristics.
These perceptions of gender are socially constructed and shaped by sociocultural structures and processes over time Fausto-Sterling Researchers in the social and natural sciences have demonstrated that addictions and consequences of addictions differ by biological sex and also by gender Becker et al.