New brain imaging studies show sex differences in brain areas associated with cocaine cravings suggesting that men and women with the drug dependence may benefit more from different treatment options, according to a study that will be published on Tuesday in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Researchers conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of 30 cocaine-dependent individuals and 36 control subjects who were recreational drinkers. While participants were undergoing brain scans, they were presented with personalized cues, such as situations or events, the subjects had reported were personally stressful and other drug cues involving cocaine or alcohol.

Researchers found that although cocaine-dependent individuals were similar in showing greater activation in broad regions associated with addiction and motivation than the control group, patterns of activation between men and women were noticeably different when presented with stress or drug cues.

Women experience cravings significantly more from stress cues, whereas men were more induced by drug cues, according to the research findings.

"There are differences in treatment outcomes for people with addictions who experience stress-induced drug cravings and those whose cravings are induced by drug cues," said Marc Potenza, Yale professor of psychiatry and first author of the study. "It is important to understand the biologic mechanisms that underlie these cravings."

Potenza said that the research suggested that women with cocaine dependency might benefit more from stress-reduction therapies that specifically target these cravings, and men might derive more benefit from elements of cognitive behavioral therapy or the 12-step program used to treat alcoholics.