Do Women and Men Experience Cannabis Differently?

One of the reasons we encourage cannabis patients to experiment with various strains for their ailment is because we have seen different strains work for different people. Perhaps you have a potent strain you like to medicate with that your friend feels no effect from at all. What makes one person paranoid could relax another simply because each person has different brain chemistry and body fat distribution. Taking this further, we might ask the question: “In general, is the experience of medicating with cannabis different for men than for women?” After all, men and women have different hormone profiles and different fat distribution patterns as well, right? This is exactly the question we hope to tackle today, although we’d like to remind readers that when we say “male” and “female, we are talking about at-birth medical identification of sex as opposed to “gender”, which obviously cannot be reduced down to stereotypes. After digging through the relevant research we’ve seen a slight disagreement in animal vs. human studies. Animal studies show less of a sexual differentiation or one in which females have higher THC concentrations in the brain. Human studies mostly appear to be the opposite, with males and females exhibiting different sensitivities in various areas. A good deal of this could be social, but a large part has to do with gonadal hormones. As we discussed in the last article, estrogen is capable of regulating cannabinoid receptor density and signal transduction. How much estrogen you have in your body at…

Sex, Hormones, and Cannabinoids

When I was growing up, one of the ‘reefer madness’ propaganda claims that used to scare teens away from cannabis was that it could make male users develop extra fatty breast tissue (yes, you read that correctly: man boobs) and lose sexual interest. Over the years, I can’t say that I’ve noticed a “body-type” that belongs to cannabis users and I’ve met plenty of daily smokers with strong sexual appetites. This has gone a long way to decreasing my fears about chemically castrating myself, but I continue to wonder: what was the basis for that claim? Perhaps it was the result of a drastic oversimplification of a study that anti-cannabis activists had latched onto and distorted… if so, what was that original study? Are cannabinoids involved with sexual expression or motivation? The answer to that question appears to be yes, with several large hints given to the interaction between cannabinoids and sex hormones. First, receptors and metabolic enzymes of the endocannabinoid system are located all throughout the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis that is responsible for sexual behavior and expression. Secondly, researchers have established that changes in sex hormones can alter endocannabinoid production, which means that the relationship between cannabinoids and sex hormones is occurring in at least in one direction. Lastly, the endocannabinoid system is known to be involved in behaviors that are also regulated in part by gonadal hormones (sex organ hormones). The real question, however, is not whether effects are produced but what effects are produced. This question is not…

Sex, Hormones, and Cannabis Potency

Have you ever heard that women get cranky and crave chocolate during a specific time of the month? Most people know that the menstrual cycle triggers certain behavior, but until recently science has failed to acknowledge that varying levels of hormones in females altered mood, behavior, and cognitive function (ie. memory, concentration, etc.). Because diseases such as Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, and arthritis occur more frequently in females, understanding female specific factors in therapeutics remains important. Estrogen is abundant in the brain and plays an important role in how the brain communicates. Though both men and women have estrogen, its levels only vary in pre-menopausal women as a function of the menstrual cycle (see graph below). Females might not be surprised to hear that they may crave chocolate during certain points in their menstrual cycle, but may not think something like cannabis potency could vary as a result of hormonal fluctuation. However, studies show that the potency of THC on pain relief in female rats increases during times of high estrogen levels. Estrogen appears to play a two-fold effect in cannabis messaging within the brain. First, it increases the conversion of THC to active THC. This means that after THC consumption, more active THC will be produced when estrogen levels are high such as during the pre-ovulatory peak; thus less cannabis may be needed to produce the same effects. Secondly, it changes the availability and excitability of receptors. Since the therapeutic effects of cannabis occur through activation of receptors, the variability…