Of course it’s true that cannabis can affect individuals differently, and does — but does it affect men and women differently? If so, how? I decided to look into the topic this week, and although information is limited due to the familiar ban on government-sponsored research, some indications have come to light in the past decade or so which show that differences may exist. Rebecca Craft, a psychology professor at Washington State University, published the findings of a research study that delves into the question.
Craft’s study found that female rats are “at least 30 percent more sensitive than males to the pain-relieving qualities of THC.” I have personally found this to be true – cannabis takes away any and all pain for me, while it doesn’t seem to be quite as effective for my male friends. To me, this seems like a positive side effect of cannabis, but Washington State University put a negative spin on it by pointing out that this might indicate an increase in negative side effects such as “anxiety, paranoia, and addiction.” The findings were published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, and the research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As such, it makes sense that the findings would be negative – but I consider the finding a win for women and cannabis. Basically it means it takes less to produce the same results as it would for men – how is that a bad thing?
Craft noted that most THC tolerance studies have been conducted with men, which leads to little research into the female side of THC tolerance. Craft also stated that, according to a past study on women and cannabis by Margaret Haney at Columbia University, women are more susceptible to decreased food intake due to cannabis withdrawal, while men are more likely to get the “munchies.” So in case you don’t already, hide the good snacks when your boyfriend or male friends head over to enjoy a sesh! Haney’s research also showed that there was no difference in the “ratings of intoxication,” and that “cannabis increased heart rate equally for both sexes.” According to Washington State University, most studies of drug use including cannabis have been performed with men “due to their more stable hormonal profile” and “despite the National institutes of Health’s recommendation to include more women in studies.”
According to Craft, who has been studying how cannabis affects female rats across their cycles, drug effects “frequently” change along with female hormones, indicating that estrogen plays a strong factor. Craft found that THC has the most effect on women when their estrogen levels have peaked and are coming down. Interestingly, following 10 days of THC treatment for pain in her test subjects, tolerance in the females was considerably higher than tolerance in the males. What does it all mean? It means that cannabis does affect women differently than men, and it’s probably due to women’s female hormones. Clearly more studies need to be done (this has become a mantra in the scientific community since legalization began), but the takeaway is that cannabis can help prevent pain in women and they may develop a tolerance faster than men.
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