Do Women Have More Tolerance for Weed Than Men?

By Shawn Dwyer 09/11/14

A new research study has shown for the first time that women might need to smoke more pot to get the same high as men.

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According to new research from Washington State University, females who smoke pot can build up tolerance to THC faster than men, thanks to their estrogen levels.

Published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the study also concluded that females are more sensitive to the pain-relieving qualities of marijuana. Their sensitivity can also make them more prone to marijuana's negative side effects, including paranoia, anxiety, and addiction.

The study was the first to demonstrate that there is a difference in how the sexes respond to THC in their system. Researchers were interested in the drug's pain-relieving effects on male and female rats. Rats have a menstrual cycle like humans, albeit one that is much shorter, as well as similar hormonal fluctuations.

"We were looking at the pain-relieving effects," said Professor Rebecca Craft, chair of the psychology department at WSU and lead researcher of the study. "One of the things that is of concern if you're using any medication repeatedly is: Will it maintain its effectiveness over time?"

At the start of the study, female rats were showing a higher sensitivity to THC. After 10 days, however, the researchers found that the female rats needed higher doses than their male counterparts. And that was after Craft had adjusted female doses to be 30% lower than male doses, knowing already that females were more sensitive to THC.

“This is the lowest dose anyone has ever used to induce tolerance,” Craft said.

Because marijuana is far more potent today than it's ever been, with higher THC levels and lower amounts cannabidiol, Craft said that the negative effects, particularly in women, could be more pronounced with just a little bit of weed.

“We’re more likely to see negative side effects today like anxiety, confusion, panic attacks, hallucinations or extreme paranoia,” she said. “And women are at higher risk.”

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.