Sex Differences in the Endocannabinoid System Lead to Very Different Cannabis Experiences

Article by Ricardo Oliveira, Lift News

Sex differences in the endocannabinoid system lead to very different cannabis experiences Recent study looks at how men and women might experience cannabis differently

Men are more likely to develop cannabis dependence, but women are prone to developing it faster, say some researchers. They think that this odd phenomenon is explained by sex differences in the endocannabinoid system that lead to very different cannabis experiences.

The idea is that the sex differences in this biological system would influence the type and severity of acute and withdrawal effects experienced by men and women, which ultimately influences their patterns of use or abuse.

However suggestive, this hypothesis is still equivocal. Some studies suggest that women have stronger withdrawal effects to cannabis, but others find no such evidence. Some argue that the differences are real but obscured by the fact that women use less cannabis. Yet others say that while the overall prevalence of withdrawal symptoms is the same, the two sexes experience different types of symptoms—but then they disagree on what these symptoms are.

Studies on the acute effects of cannabis are not much better. Some indicate that women experience higher subjective effects for smoked cannabis, and others find that women experience less. One study suggested that this varies as a function of dose, with women experiencing greater subjective effects at low doses and less effects at higher doses, when compared to men. Because the studies differ widely in terms of samples and methods, it is difficult to assess whose evidence is more solid. Similar issues exist regarding the acute cognitive effects experienced by both sides.

A study published last year in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research might help clarify some of these questions. A team of three researchers led by Dr. Carrie Cuttler from the Washington State University conducted a large online survey of recreational and medicinal cannabis users, inquiring about use patterns and perceived effects.

A considerably large sample of 2374 participants (42% of which were female) completed the survey. Men were more likely to use cannabis for recreational purposes, whereas females were more likely to use it for medicinal purposes. Not surprisingly, men reported using cannabis more frequently and in higher quantities.

While men and women did not differ in regard to the age of first use, the data showed that women were twice as likely to initiate cannabis use after the age of 30. In terms of preferred administration route, men were more likely to use joints, vaporizers and concentrates, whereas women were more likely to use pipes and oral products (edibles, tinctures, and capsules).

The two groups did not show any differences in reported trouble reducing or stopping cannabis use. They shared similar beliefs regarding its safety, with the only difference being that women were less likely to be aware that cannabis is addictive.

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