Cannabis Affects Men and Women Differently — Here’s How
The world of cannabis continues to grow as we learn more about this incredible plant and all it can do. As cannabis becomes more accepted throughout the U.S., more studies are being conducted to look into its many potential uses, including medical research and its psychological impact on its consumers. While much of this research is still in its early phases and often involves animal subjects instead of humans, we’ve already discovered so much.
One interesting aspect of this newly developed research is understanding if and how cannabis affects men and women differently. Historically, men have been the dominant consumer of marijuana. It is only in recent years that we’ve seen an uptick of women who utilize marijuana too. We know that our bodies work differently, so it is important to determine how marijuana could impact these chemical differences and how they could manifest externally.
Does Cannabis Affect Men and Women Differently?
Numerous studies have been conducted to gauge whether cannabis affects men and women differently, and the results gathered so far indicate, yes. These studies are still new, and we still have much to learn, but what has been discovered so far shows clear distinctions on a variety of different elements involved with cannabis use. Some of these differences are minor, while some are quite significant. These differences range from level of consumption, effects experienced, and the ways in which our bodies react differently.
In recent years, with the stigma of marijuana use diminishing, we are seeing an increase in marijuana use throughout the country in both medicinal and recreational aspects. A large number of new users are women, and many of these women are turning to marijuana for therapeutic uses.
This is why much of our newer research is calling for testing to determine differences in effects between men and women. Men have historically been better studied, so our knowledge of cannabis usage is lacking in certain aspects. The expanding use among women calls for this research to ensure that women are able to fully understand the pros and cons of utilizing marijuana for themselves.
How Gender Plays a Role in Marijuana Consumption and Effects
When it comes to breaking down how cannabis affects men vs. women, there are numerous categories to explore. Studies have been conducted with both animals and humans to begin to fully understand the differences gender plays in marijuana consumption and the effects associated with that consumption. Some of the major areas of research have focused on the initial age of cannabis use, level of use over time, as well as the effects marijuana use has on the person, both externally and internally.
Age of Exploration
Recent studies have shown a difference in age when it comes to initial introductions to cannabis. In general, men tend to report beginning their cannabis use at a younger age, usually around high school or college. Men are shown to not only begin their cannabis use younger; women, on the other hand, tend to use cannabis later in life.
The reasons behind these differences are often associated with the perceived risks of cannabis use. When asked, many women reported fearing potential side effects or dependency in their youth versus men. What is most interesting is that by the age of 30, women are twice as likely to start using cannabis. As research continues to develop, we are seeing that this age gap is beginning to close, likely tied to our better understanding as a society of what cannabis is and the decreased institutionalized concept of marijuana as a gateway drug.
Dosage and Consumption
When it comes to consumption, men tend to use cannabis in greater amounts and at a higher rate than women. Recent research is leaning towards an understanding that women tend to experience the same effects of cannabis use as men but at lower doses of THC. When looking at animal research, it has been suggested that females may be more sensitive to the effects of THC. This sensitivity could be due to the differences in which the THC is metabolized. Other reports state that women may experience weaker effects due to a difference in body weight distribution namely, fat. Women tend to carry more fat in their body compared to men and, because THC is fat-soluble, this may hinder the psychoactive compound’s ability to penetrate the bloodstream.
How men and women prefer to consume their cannabis also seems to differ. Men often report preferring to use joints or blunts as well as concentrates and vapes. Women, on the other hand, report preferring to use pipes and other oral methods such as edibles, beverages, tinctures, and capsules. The reason for these differences isn’t a set conclusion. Some researchers believe it may just have to do with convenience of consumption as well as the desired effects.
It is generally known that cannabis use can trigger an increase in appetite, often referred to as the “munchies.” The level of impact could vary depending on your marijuana strain of choice, as “indica,” a common term used to encompass feelings of relaxation, strains are often more heavily associated with triggering the increase in appetite amongst users. Regardless of strain choice, research supports findings that men have a greater susceptibility to stimulation of the appetite as well as food intake. In opposition, many women initially feel a decrease in appetite with use.
Studies show that a dose of the cannabinoid agonist dronabinol caused higher fasting gastric volume in men (hence the increase in appetite) and that gastric emptying in women was slowed. To put it another way, when male and female rats were tested for appetite changes, male rats showed an increased interest and consumption of condensed milk within the first hour of cannabis introduction.
This increased interest in the milk lingered over the course of three hours. Female rats only began to show interest in the condensed milk following the three-hour mark. When it comes to the munchies, men simply can’t help it. Further research is being conducted into discovering if what we crave varies with men or women consumers.
One of the most interesting aspects of recent research is the impact of the chemical reactions of cannabis and our natural sexual desires and functions. Women, in particular, seem to be impacted because of estrogen levels. Estrogen regulates not only a woman’s menstrual cycle but also the reproductive tract, urinary tract, heart and blood vessels, and even the brain. A woman’s estrogen levels can play a large role in just how receptive the brain is to external cannabinoids.
During ovulation is when a woman experiences her highest level of natural endocannabinoids, which evidence previously suggested that cannabis use could actually assist fertility. More recent research has shown otherwise, further highlighting the need for more clinical, in vivo studies.
The amount of THC consumed can also impact a woman’s sexual drive. When taken in smaller doses, cannabis has been shown to increase a woman’s sexual appetite. With larger doses, however, there tends to be an opposite effect, where the sexual appetite is lessened.
While cannabis has shown instances of improving a woman’s sexual drive and fertility, early studies are showing opposite results in men. Among men, cannabis smoking and vaporizing can actually decrease sexual appetite and sperm production.
Cannabis consumers under the age of 30 were found to have more instances of deformed sperm, which would create difficulty in swimming and getting to the intended target. It is extremely important to note that more evidence is still necessary. Though, this shouldn’t be an area of fear since research is still so new. It is something to consider if you are having pregnancy issues.
Other Effects of Marijuana Use
Marijuana can affect users in a variety of ways. In general, we understand that marijuana can often cause feelings of euphoria. Users report feeling happier, more optimistic, almost like their problems are a thing of the past. This euphoric reaction can lead people to become more social or tap into their creative side. Marijuana can also leave a user feeling relaxed, both physically and mentally. These tend to depend on the type of strain that a consumer is utilizing. So, the question becomes, is there a difference when it comes to men and women?
Recent studies have shown some interesting results. While the differences may be small, they are still quite significant when it comes to further understanding how THC impacts the chemistry of the sexes differently. In general, early evidence has shown that women can experience more adverse effects than men. Since women make up a large number of new marijuana users, determining these different effects are crucial.
When it comes to perceived negative effects, women are more likely to experience instances of dizziness and nausea, though nausea and anxiety are some of the leading reasons why women report using marijuana. Women have also been found to be more prone to visuospatial memory impairment, which is essentially saying that women tend to be a bit more forgetful.
Men tend to find themselves having a harder time making decisions versus women who show the ability to make better decisions. Men also have shown a decrease in their speed while completing cognitive tests. Men tend to experience some form of altered time perception, where the world around them seems to be moving slower or faster, while women haven’t shown many instances of experiencing altered time perception.
Men tend to experience the euphoria associated with marijuana use more fully, leading towards increased musicality and enthusiasm. Women, on the other hand, seem to shift more towards important task orientations such as cleaning the home. Researchers are unsure, but they feel this may be due to the fact that, in general, women perform these tasks more often.
Pain relief is another area of recent study. Pain relief has been studied both through sensitivity and tolerance. Research has led to an understanding that men tend to experience greater pain relief than women. What is most interesting about this research is that while men seem to experience greater pain relief, it is also tied to tolerance levels. Women seem to develop tolerance to marijuana quicker than their male counterparts. This means that women would have to consume more marijuana to experience the same level of pain relief as men.
Cannabis Effects on Men Vs. Women: The Results (So Far)
Does cannabis affect men and women differently? Early evidence shows yes, it does. Men tend to turn to marijuana use earlier in life and often find themselves more dependent upon it. Women tend to utilize marijuana later in life but don’t show as strong of signs when it comes to dependency.
While men get slammed with the munchies, women may actually experience the direct opposite. Sexually, women tend to feel a stronger sex drive, and early studies indicate marijuana use could actually help with fertility. Men, on the other hand, may experience a decrease in both sex drive and sperm count. When it comes to the general effects of marijuana consumption, both experience feelings of euphoria, happiness, energy, and relaxation, but on different levels and at different doses.
What is most important to remember is that this research is still new and is ongoing. As marijuana use continues to grow, more research will have to be conducted to ensure that we fully understand the pros and cons of use. Today, this research is still relatively limited due to funding and ability. Testing can be subjective and often involves a wide variety of factors that can be hard to regulate.
We are still working to find the best ways to conduct these studies. Time will tell where our research will take us. What we understand now will continue to grow and shift as more research is conducted. What can be agreed upon is that regardless of gender, marijuana has proven beneficial to numerous people for a wide variety of reasons.
Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Contributor for Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.