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Many individuals suffering from chronic pain and other devastating illnesses rely on cannabis for treatment. Those caught up in the opioid epidemic sweeping the country are also finding relief in the plant, which is currently helping curtail reports of addiction in patients.

There’s no doubt that marijuana is effective in addressing pain-related medical issues. However, a new study from the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) uncovered that the effectiveness of the herb differs between male and female groups.

“These findings come at a time when more people, including women, are turning to the use of medical cannabis for pain relief,” said Ziva Cooper, associate professor of clinical neurobiology (in psychiatry) at CUMC. “Preclinical evidence has suggested that the experience of pain relief from cannabis-related products may vary between sexes, but no studies have been done to see if this is true in humans.”

Cold Pressor Test

To test the validity of their claims, scientists turned to the infamous Cold Pressor Test (CPT), as a method for measuring various tolerances to pain. The process involves submerging one’s hands in a container filled with ice water for as long as possible. Before the 42 adult participants (21 males and 21 females) engaged in the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, they were randomly given a dose of THC (at 3.56-5.60 percent potency) or a placebo (no THC). Afterwards, each person dunked their hands in cold water at 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers recorded their respective times and assessed the results for signs of exceptional pain tolerance.

The results showed that men who were given THC before the CPT experienced an increase in pain tolerance and a decrease in pain sensitivity, compared to participants given the placebo. For women, CUMC scientists reported no “significant” increase in pain tolerance and no changes in pain sensitivity. A previous CPT study that did not involve cannabis, but also tested pain tolerance levels of men and women displayed similar results. The 2004 report showed that male participants were able to keep their hands in the ice water container for a longer period of time, compared to female participants.

Women and Cannabis

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Outside of pain tolerance capabilities, researchers claim that women are more sensitive to marijuana than men. This was proven in a study published in journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, which found that estrogen could be connected to more intense highs. During the study, scientists observed the behavior of female rats after administering a dose of THC. Around 30 percent more female subjects showed signs of sensitivity, compared to males.

It is important to consider that most of the previous studies used THC as the primary medium for cannabis testing. Weed contains over 85 other compounds with different medicinal properties. With this in mind, scientists may need to test other cannabinoids in the herb to obtain a more thorough conclusion.

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