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Medical cannabis response in women vs. men

The Effects of Cannabis on Women vs Men

I love writing about cannabis. I get to do constant research on this amazing medicinal herb. I am always learning something new about it. This week’s article is no exception. It never occurred to me that one’s gender played such a crucial role in determining the effects of cannabis. It is all about how THC and hormones, specifically estrogen, interact….sorry fellas! So, without further ado, here are the ways in which cannabis affects men and women differently.

Please note that most of the cannabis research uses male subjects, so there is not much research on how it affects women. A few researchers are trying to change that oversight.


1. THC and Estrogen

A woman’s menstrual cycle is influential in determining drug sensitivity in females. Scientist Rebecca Craft led a Washington State University research team in investigating cannabis usage by women during their menstrual cycle. Women experience the strongest response from THC when their estrogen level has peaked, a day or two before ovulation, and begins to decrease.

2. Increase in Pain Relief

That stronger sensitivity also translated into enhancing the pain-relieving effects of THC in women more than in men. Ms. Craft used rodent test subjects to corroborate this finding. She determined that there was 30% more pain relief in females than in males.

3. Stronger Withdrawal Symptoms

In a small 2010 study using both men and women subjects, researchers determined that women experienced more severe withdrawal symptoms of cannabis usage than men when they stopped using it for a period of time. Symptoms included sleep disruption, reduced appetite and irritability.

4. Develop Tolerance Level Quicker

The same Washington State University team of researchers tested rats for THC tolerance levels, using both males and females. With the knowledge that females consistently are more sensitive to cannabis, females were given a lower dosage of THC from the start. The test lasted for 10 days at which point the female rats required a much larger dose to exhibit the same effects as did the male rats. Although the test subjects were rodents, the team surmised that females of both species become desensitized to the psychoactive effect of THC more quickly than males.

5. Decrease in Visuospatial Memory

Your visuospatial memory allows you to recall visual images in your mind, to remember different locations and to make sense of the relationship between spatial objects. A 2010 study that appeared in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found that THC interfered with visuospatial memory more in women than in men.

6. Effects on Libido

The effects of THC on the female libido is really interesting. In low doses, it causes an increase in female libido. However, it has the opposite effect with high doses. Again, this all has to do with estrogen. The female libido is driven by estrogen levels. When women go through menopause and stop producing estrogen, their sex drive decreases significantly. Apparently, too much THC interferes with estrogen and lowers the female libido; a strain of 14% THC seems to be the optimum level needed.


7. More Munchies

Craft and her team determined that an increase in appetite was one of the only cannabis side effects that was more pronounced in men than in women.

8. Less Pain Relief

Because men are less sensitive to cannabis and to the pain-relieving qualities of it, men will have to consume more cannabis to achieve the same results as women.

9. Greater Likelihood of Experiencing Psychosis

A 2015 study that appeared in Science News looked at the incidence of cannabis-induced psychosis in males versus females. While psychosis is quite rare amongst cannabis users, genetics appears to play a role. The results determined that males outnumber females by 2:1 in demonstrating psychotic symptoms.

10. Male Libido 

It seems there is an expiration date on the effects of cannabis on the male libido. Research from the 1980s tested testosterone levels of THC in rodents. The psychoactivity spiked the testosterone level shortly after usage. With low doses, it lasted for an hour. In high doses, it only lasted for 20 minutes. In fact, the testosterone levels decreased below the baseline when the effects of cannabis wore off.

So, there you have it. I know I will be doing my own “personal research study” on my husband’s responses to his cannabis usage versus my own.

The More You Know…..

Source:, 10 Surprising Ways Weed Affects Men & Women Differently, Anna Wilcox, July 24, 2016.

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