Drug Addiction Risk May Be Determined By The Number Of Times You Have Sex

First Posted: Sep 24, 2016 05:01 AM EDT

An interesting study has found that your sensitivity to particular drugs may be determined by the amount of sex you have. Experts who performed the experiment claim that this could partly explain why some people are more susceptible to addiction than others.

Several people say that sex is the most powerful drug in the world. experts claim that the act excites the same brain area as amphetamines, and made male rats more at risk to seek out drugs when they experienced days without sex.

According to reports, the experiment found that those who engage in sex more may be at risk of drug tolerance to some drugs. However, when these people experience some dramatic change in their love lives and spend most nights being alone, their drug sensitivity to these particular substances can significantly rise.

Researchers of the study tried to follow up on a previous work that showed that when rats have experienced having too much sexual intercourse, the dopamine-releasing neurons in the area of the brain known as ventral tegmental area (TVA) shrink. The team of US-researchers, led by Lauren Beloate at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson has found what causes the phenomenon.

For Beloate and her team, sex is nothing more than a natural reward which makes people feel good, which is also a reason why the desire to the act repeated usually happens. The team has likened the feeling to taking drugs, which acts on the same part of the brain as sex, this making taking drugs so addictive. "Experience with sexual behavior, followed by a period of abstinence from sexual behavior, causes increased reward for amphetamine in male rats," wrote Beloate's team.

The scientists refer to it as "increased vulnerability," which means that the drug has a much higher control on a sex-engaged animal than it should have. A report from IFL Science wrote that in the latest study, researchers allowed rats to mate as much as they want, before forcing them to abstain for a period of time. The abstinent period triggered the rats to show an increased sensitivity for amphetamines by craving the drug and showing a high risk for addiction. To explain what causes this effect, the team chemically blocked the activity of VTA dopamine neurons, and which allowed the rats to mate like rabbits, before making them celibate again for a week.

This time, they found that having sex had no effect on the size of these neurons, which did not cause any changes to the rats' sensitivity to amphetamines. The authors note that disrupting dopamine during sex suppressed the expression of a transcription factor called ΔFosB, which researchers think is responsible for the changes in neuronal plasticity which are usually seen under normal conditions.

Meanwhile, researchers conclude that the activation of dopamine neurons in the TVA during sex causes changes to neuron size and sensitivity, which, when followed by a period of abstinence, causes rats and possibly people to be specifically receptive to the effects of certain drugs and therefore increases their risk of drug addiction.

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