A study conducted by Columbia University Medical Center found that marijuana may be more effective at treating pain in men than in women. The study, which was published online in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, involved the analysis from two double-blinded placebo controlled studies. The study focused on the analgesic effects of cannabis in 42 recreational cannabis smokers. Participants in the study were given a specific amount of marijuana or placebo to smoke. The participants were then immersed in an ice bath until they couldn't stand the pain anymore, they then followed up the experience by answering a short questionnaire.
The male participants who smoked cannabis reported significant decreases in pain sensitivity and a higher pain tolerance. Females who had smoked cannabis during the study, however, did not experience a significant decrease in pain sensitivity, though they did experience a small increase in pain tolerance. Both men and women who smoked cannabis during the study, compared to those who smoked the placebo, reported equal levels of how “intoxicated” they felt despite the varying results in pain reducing effects.
A HelloMD survey found that only 36% of medical marijuana users are women, compared to 64% who are men. The survey also found that pain was the second most common reason, after anxiety, for patients to use medical cannabis. A Journal of Pain study from 2012 also found that women tend to feel pain more strongly than men do. All of these statistics lead to the question: Could the smaller number of women using medical cannabis possibly have something to do with the less positive results experienced by women as compared to the more positive results experienced by men, who make up the majority of cannabis users?
Between the statistical information and the study by CUMC, there's a lot of room for further investigation into how cannabis affects genders differently. Other factors such as different cannabis delivery methods or types of pain could also change the outcome of the study. Since women appear to need to ingest higher levels of cannabis to control pain, this could lead to the emergence of more female specific products. We are already seeing this trend in the form of menstrual pain specific products, that are targeted to work with the body chemistry of women and more directly target the source of their pain.
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