Sex and drug use

How can sex and drug use overlap? Sexual experience, behavioural addictions and drug addictions share common mechanisms. They result in similar brain changes too. This overlap is evident in the research. Below you will find a sampling of work in this area.

The overlap helps explain how sex can have such profound impact on perception and priorities. Sex and drug use changes happen subconsciously. So, we generally don’t notice their (sometimes profound) effects on our perception, priorities and choices.


Natural Rewards, Neuroplasticity, and Non-Drug Addictions

Compulsive Sexual Behavior in Humans and Preclinical Models

Brain Imaging of Human Sexual Response: Recent Developments and Future Directions (2017)

Brain Activation during Human Male Ejaculation (2003)


Amphetamine reward in the monogamous prairie vole

Influences of social reward experience on behavioral responses to drugs of abuse: Review of shared and divergent neural plasticity mechanisms for sexual reward and drugs of abuse

Ventral Tegmental Area Dopamine Cell Activation during Male Rat Sexual Behavior Regulates Neuroplasticity and d-Amphetamine Cross-Sensitization following Sex Abstinence

Maladaptive Sex Behavior Following Concurrent Methamphetamine and Sexual Experience in Male Rats is Associated with Altered Neural Activity in Frontal Cortex

Cell-type specific increases in female hamster nucleus accumbens spine density following female sexual experience

Changes in gene expression within the nucleus accumbens and striatum following sexual experience

Concurrent exposure to methamphetamine and sexual behavior enhances subsequent drug reward and causes compulsive sexual behavior in male rats

Pathways of sexual desire

Endogenous opioid-induced neuroplasticity of dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area influences natural and opiate reward

Methamphetamine acts on subpopulations of neurons regulating sexual behavior in male rats

Natural reward experience alters AMPA and NMDA receptor distribution and function in the nucleus accumbens

Natural Rewards, Neuroplasticity, and Non-Drug Addictions

Sexual experience alters D1 receptor-mediated cyclic AMP production in the nucleus accumbens of female Syrian hamsters

Sexual experience in female rodents: cellular mechanisms and functional consequences

Neuroplasticity in the Mesolimbic System Induced by Natural Reward and Subsequent Reward Abstinence

Sexual experience sensitizes mating-related nucleus accumbens dopamine responses of female Syrian hamsters

Sexual reward in male rats: Effects of sexual experience on conditioned place preferences associated with ejaculation and intromissions

Recovery from sexual exhaustion-induced copulatory inhibition and drug hypersensitivity follow a same time course: two expressions of a same process?

Brain Activation during Human Male Ejaculation

Conditioned preferences induced by sex and drugs: a comparison of the neural bases

DeltaFosB, c-Fos, and DeltaJunD

These papers investigate the finer, technical detail of how sex and drug use can interact.

The Influence of ΔFosB in the Nucleus Accumbens on Natural Reward Related Behavior

DeltaFosB Overexpression In The Nucleus Accumbens Enhances Sexual Reward In Female Syrian Hamsters

DeltaFosB in The Nucleus Accumbens is Critical For Reinforcing Effects of Sexual Reward

Delta JunD overexpression in the nucleus accumbens prevents sexual reward in female Syrian hamsters

DeltaFosB: a sustained molecular switch for addiction

Natural and Drug Rewards Act on Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms with ΔFosB as a Key Mediator

Sexual Behavior Induction of c-Fos in the Nucleus Accumbens and Amphetamine-Stimulated Locomotor Activity Are Sensitized by Previous Sexual Experience in Female Syrian Hamsters