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Does Marijuana Affect Men and Women Differently?

A recent study found marijuana is more effective in treating pain in men than women.

by Roni Stetter

by Roni Stetter

Who benefits more from smoking bud, men or women?

Well, if pain is the determining factor, a recent Drug & Alcohol Dependence study, found smoked cannabis tends to vary in its effectiveness from patient to patient, specifically for pain relief, and one of the main divides is patient gender.

During this double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the analgesic effects of smoked cannabis flower, a high number of men reported both decreased pain sensation and an increased tolerance for pain right after they smoked. In the same situation, however, women did not report minimized pain sensation, but only a small increase in their pain tolerance. It’s not the first time a cannabis study has shown a gender split. So what does it mean?

Unlike pain sensation, which is felt from one moment to the next, “tolerance” can be tough for patients to self-measure, and can vary based on many factors, both social and environmental. Those with chronic pain are more likely to feel a pain sensation all or most of the time they are awake. In such cases, any relief helps, and medical cannabis gives many of these patients the ability to bear the pain a little easier, going about their normal activities even if the pain doesn’t go away.

Though this is the first time cannabis treatment has been a part of this conversation, for years, pain studies have concluded that women feel pain more intensely than men do. From respiratory diseases to knee and back pain, findings have consistently trended toward higher pain intensity and increased perception of pain on a 1-10 scale typically used by healthcare professionals.

While there’s more than enough research to prove that this is happening, it’s still unclear why. The difference could be chemical, or psychological. Either way, these findings have a couple of implications for patients and cannabis companies alike.

First, this means that women may need to use higher doses of cannabis, or highly specialized delivery methods, in order to achieve significant pain relief from medical marijuana. Modern women are getting to know their bodies better than ever before, thanks to increased interest in wellness, self-care and achieving a healthy mind-body connection. Female cannabis patients and consumers need to practice various kinds of medication in order to find out what’s best for them. Experimenting with new products and keeping a journal of experiences is an ideal way to determine one’s own pain tolerance.

The proven difference in how men and women experience pain relief from their medicine obviously predicates the need for more potent female-specialized product brands in the cannabis industry. Whether that added potency comes from a higher dosage of cannabinoids, the addition of other complementary and therapeutic ingredients, or by researching and implementing new and better delivery methods, is up to the market. However, it’s clear that the same set of products won’t work for everyone for much longer.

Science has yet to determine exactly why this varied response occurs among the sexes. Even if it is simply a difference in psychological perception of pain, the health and wellness concerns of women will likely continue to develop independently of what men are looking for in their cannabis products. If it is a chemical relationship, the need for more research into the effects of medical cannabis has again been solidified.

The important thing we know now is that all medical cannabis studies should include both men and women, in order to further explore the differences between the genders and how we all internally process this plant.


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Roni Stetter

Roni is a long-time cannabis advocate who has been involved in the community since her days with California's 2010 legalization campaign. A former high school athlete who successfully treated her sports injuries with medical marijuana, she now promotes the health movement on her own blog. When not writing or researching on the web, you can find her at a drum and bass show, hanging out with her dog and cat, or otherwise living the simple San Diego beach life. See what else Roni is up to on her website



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