Commonly asked question among medical cannabis users. Does cannabis work differently on males and females?
Let’s explore one of marijuana’s medically beneficial chemical compounds (cannabinoids) called CBD or cannabidiol.
Certain cannabis strains are grown to be rich in CBD, and this compound packs a medical punch without the psychotropic side effects. So you get all the medical benefits without feeling stoned. But do women and men react differently?
Very few studies have looked at whether the two sexes react to CBD differently. This compound is used to treat inflammation, pain, anxiety and other conditions. A recent study published in 2016 suggests that men experience more pain relief than women. Previous research has involved animal studies in which female animals were shown to be more receptive to the pain effects of cannabis. Animal study results don’t often translate to human studies, and that was the case with this research study.
The study looked at 21 males and 21 females. There were significant differences in the pain relief effect that was achieved.
The subjects smoked either cannabis or a placebo with no cannabis. At time intervals, they dunked their hands into a tank of cold water; this is a common pain threshold test known as the Cold-Pressor Test.
Subjects rated their pain and researchers noted how long they could keep their hands in the cold water. Cannabis significantly reduced the pain for men, but for women there was no real difference between the cannabis or the placebo.
Women develop a tolerance for pain faster than men, and that was also found in the animal trials. Researchers suspected females developed a fast tolerance to the cold water. All the 42 subjects were daily heavy cannabis consumers, and since a low dose was used in the study, it may not have had a noteable effect.
A more interesting reason is explained by female hormones, an effect also seen in the animal trial. Because female hormones fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, certain hormones make them more sensitive or less sensitive to pain, depending on the progression into the cycle.
There’s lots more research to do. This study was limited by number of subjects, cannabis dose and pain stimulus, but it is an interesting first look at differences between the sexes.
The researchers say future research should use varying levels of cannabis doses, as well as thermal-induced pain like the cold pressor test, but also mechanically – and chemically-induced pain. The research team says their study is another step showing that serious clinical research is needed to look at gender factors.
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