The use of weed for both recreational and medicinal purposes is becoming more and more accepted all across the United States. The once demonized natural substance is slowly but surely earning its place as a potent and effective medicine, as well as an increasingly popular recreational activity. The use of recreational marijuana is currently legal in nine states, and over half of the states allow weed to be prescribed for medicinal use.
One of the important things to know about marijuana use is that it may affect you differently based on your gender. If there is an area where men outperform women, it’s in how much marijuana they consume. Recent studies suggest that as many as three-quarters of weed smokers are men. Even more interesting is that, although cannabis addiction is fairly rare, men are much more likely to develop dependence than women.
Men and women are different on multiple levels; emotionally, physically, mentally, and in the way in which marijuana affects them. Although we all have endocannabinoid receptors – which is the reason that we are able to safely consume cannabis in the first place – the way that males and females react to marijuana is distinctly different.
The urban myth is that women get a lot higher than men because of increased hormone levels and because they weigh less. However, there is absolutely no truth to this theory. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that since women have a higher pain tolerance, they also have a higher tolerance when it comes to smoking weed.
For years medical professionals have grappled with the reality that marijuana use may affect women and men differently. This matters because the cannabis culture is slowly changing. The more flexible marijuana policies all around the globe that has taken place over the last two decades have led to greater acceptance of the drug, for both recreational and medical purposes. The number of people who are using cannabis in the United States rising steadily and women seem to make up a significant part of these new consumers. The gap between men and women’s use of weed is shrinking, especially when it comes to medical cannabis use.
The research on gender
A study was conducted in Columbia, and Johns Hopkins University discovered that nonwhite, low-income women who are over the age of 50 are the demographic who are most likely to view marijuana use as a risky activity. They are nearly twice as likely to hold this belief than men of the same age and demographic. Interestingly, this study connects with another recent observation between the sexes; that cannabinoids affect men and women differently, specifically in neurotransmitter and hormone functions.
At this point, few studies have taken sex-based differences into account. But, one of the first to be done was a study on marijuana and pain relief with regards to men and women. The study, as published in the scientific journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, found that men may experience the pain relief effects of cannabis more strongly than women.
According to an article that was published by Bustle, there was a 2010 review done on sex differences in cannabinoid action which suggested that stuff like body fat percentage, certain brain receptors, and estrogen, among other things that play a part in gender differences when it comes to cannabis use. The main reason that women are thought to medicate with cannabis better than men is that they can naturally build a higher tolerance to THC due to estrogen.
However, while there have been a few preclinical studies performed by analyzing sex-specific differences using animal models, the results don’t always translate to human trials, which happens to be the case in one of the latest studies.
This study found that female laboratory animals were more sensitive to the antinociceptive (pain inhibition) and reward-related effects of cannabinoids when compared to males. Thus, as the study authors explained, the absence of a sex-dependent difference for marijuana’s subjective effects, together with the sex-dependent effect for marijuana-induced analgesia, is the opposite of what has been observed in the preclinical literature. This reflects an important difference in cannabis exposure in rodent compared to human studies.
In a placebo-controlled study done in 2016, Cooper and a colleague studied participants who were already cannabis smokers. As part of the study, these people were told to immerse their hand in cold water to conclude how much pain they experienced and to determine how long they could handle it for, after smoking weed. Men appeared to experience better pain relief than women.
Animal studies can partly guide us in understanding these findings. Many experiments have found that pain-relieving effects of THC are more effective in female rats. However, when they are given this compound every day, they develop tolerance much quicker than males. This means that in the long run, they are likely to need higher doses of THC to gain the same pain-relieving effects.
How cannabis affects men?
Men generally tend to consume cannabis in greater quantities and at higher rates than what women do. Also, male cannabis users tend to have higher rates of THC in their bloodstream, are quite interestingly thought to have a higher prevalence of reported personality disorders and panic disorders, and are less likely to be weed-only consumers. Additionally, men are reported as having a higher susceptibility to appetite stimulation and food intake after consuming cannabis.
Another interesting effect in men is a decrease in sexual appetite and sperm production. High levels of THC may result in low levels of testosterone. Low testosterone levels can affect sexual performance, male fertility, and libido. It’s important to mention that THC-related decreases in testosterone are temporary and short-lived. By taking a short cannabis break, testosterone levels can be restored to normal levels.
How cannabis affects women?
Women are more likely to experience dizziness when using marijuana. Also, females report using marijuana mainly when feeling anxious, and may also experience weaker effects due to the difference in body weight distribution. Another interesting occurrence is that women are more susceptible to visuospatial memory impairment after using cannabis.
A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Drug Alcohol Abuse took a look at marijuana withdrawal symptoms and the difference between men and women. They reported that women experienced more withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, sleep issues, and lack of appetite. Women were also especially likely to report on an upset stomach due to withdrawal, and this is not something that is commonly reported by men.
Things to keep in mind when it comes to cannabis use for men and women
Males and females are dissimilar in their hormonally driven and genetic behavior; they process information differently, display diverse attitudes, social skills, and language, perceive emotions and experiences in different ways, and show sex-related differences in the brain organization and anatomy. Cannabinoids have also shown to exert sex-dependent effects in other behavioral and physiological aspects, such as energy balance and food intake (more evident in males), or depression and anxiety (more evident in females).
It’s important to consider how cannabis might affect you based on your gender.
- Men likely won’t need cannabis tolerance breaks as often as women do.
- Women who want to use cannabis for pain treatment may need a higher dosage than men to acquire similar results.
- Cannabis affects sexual stimulation in women more positively than in men.
- Cannabis can have an adverse effect on testosterone production in men.
- Women are more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms than men when they take a tolerance break.
Final thoughts on the effect of marijuana on men and women
Studies on the difference between effects of marijuana on men and women are still in their infancy when it comes to conclusive research. However, initial findings have concluded that cannabis does, in fact, affect men and women differently.
Gender is certainly something that needs to be considered when it comes to the efficacy of cannabis medicines. There is a serious need for further clinical research to reiterate what preclinical trials have already found.