There’s no question that men use a lot more cannabis than women. But with recent changes in legal availability and the de-stigmatization of cannabis use, more women are starting to enjoy everything this plant to offer. But could there be other reasons women tend to smoke less? Do the effects of cannabis really differ between the sexes?
Research is just beginning to look at the different effects of cannabis on men and women. What we’ve seen so far suggests that there could be a biological difference in the way cannabis makes women feel. Here’s what we currently know about how cannabis affects women differently.
The Effects of Cannabis: Sex Hormones and The Endocannabinoid System
Why would cannabis affect women differently than men? Researchers think it comes down to sex hormones. Women and men have different levels of sex hormones in their bodies, and they don’t regulate the endocannabinoid system in the same way. Women have higher levels of estrogen, which is a sex hormone that interacts a lot with the endocannabinoid system.
In some areas of the brain, the number of CB1 receptors increases with the amount of estrogen that’s present. That means that cannabis can potentially have stronger effects on women depending on their menstrual cycles. The endocannabinoid system is also related to mood disorders, which might be the reason women are more vulnerable to developing them.
How Cannabis Affects Women Differently
We know that estrogen can have an impact on how cannabis affects women, but how exactly do women experience cannabis differently?
For starters, cannabis has a stronger overall effect on women than it does on men. This is true for most reactions to cannabis across the board – except for the munchies.
You might be thinking that’s good news, but the sex differences can be a mixed bag for women. While cannabinoids seem to be better at relieving pain in women than in men, they can also cause increased anxiety or other unwanted side effects that come with too much THC. The stronger reactions women experience are likely the reason women tend to form cannabis use disorder more quickly than their male counterparts.
Another significant difference is that women seem to build up a tolerance to cannabis faster than guys do. So even though estrogen enhances the effects, women may need to consume higher amounts over time to achieve the same outcome.
Some good news for women tokers is that studies show women experience more aphrodisiac effects from THC than men!
Because of legal restrictions, most of what we know about the different ways cannabis affects the sexes come from studies done on rats. But people aren’t rats. So if you are trying to balance the pros and cons of using cannabis as a woman, remember that these findings are not definitive and aren’t going to be true for everyone.
It should also be noted that women are very underrepresented in cannabis studies, so what we know now might only be the tip of the iceberg in our understanding of how cannabis affects women.
What really matters is knowing your own limits and what works for you personally. Don’t let the way others use cannabis influence your decisions, because we all have individual brains and unique reactions to cannabinoids — regardless of sex.
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