Marijuana Provides Greater Pain Relief For Men Than Women, Says Study

By McCarton Ackerman 08/23/16

The study was the first of its kind to test whether gender affected the pain-relieving potency of marijuana in humans.

Marijuana Provides Greater Pain Relief For Men Than Women, Says Study

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) collected data from 42 recreational smokers, assessing both their pain sensitivity and pain tolerance before and after smoking cannabis. The findings were published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence

Participants smoked equal amounts of either an active or placebo form of cannabis, then stuck their hand in a cold water bath until they could no longer handle it. Immediately following that, they answered a short questionnaire about their pain.

Women reported mild increases in pain tolerance right after smoking, but did not have meaningful decreases in pain sensitivity. However, male participants reported both decreases in pain sensitivity and increases in pain tolerance.

“These findings come at a time when more people, including women, are turning to the use of medical cannabis for pain relief,” said Ziva Cooper, PhD, associate professor of clinical neurobiology (in psychiatry) at CUMC. The researchers noted that further research needs to be conducted in order to better understand the mitigating factors that impact the effects of cannabinoids.

Other studies have also confirmed that marijuana has different effects on men and women when it comes to sexual performance and health. A recent study conducted by the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation and the Missouri Clinical and Biochemical Laboratory showed that frequent marijuana use lowered testosterone levels, but that the imbalance can be restored by ceasing use. However, a separate research project from the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia found that topical oils containing medical marijuana are a viable treatment for low sex drive in women. The oils improve their sexual health by strengthening physiological responses to sexual stimulation and increasing overall arousal.

There are also findings which show gender differences in marijuana use and addiction. The latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey out of Australia showed that while more men in the country smoke marijuana, women users are more likely to smoke daily (12% vs. 14%) and are more prone to becoming dependent on the drug.

"Women have a higher tolerance so they need to use at higher levels," said Jan Copeland, head of Australia's National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. "They are more at risk of negative effects including paranoia and other kinds of anxiety-type feelings, but also to addiction."

Copeland also cited research which showed men “tend to use [cannabis] for positive reasons,” while women generally smoke pot “to relieve an internal distress situation.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.