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…

Cannabis & Pregnancy

A review of cannabis use during pregnancy, published in the journal Future Neurology on July 1, 2011, clearly indicates that there are risks of long term cognitive effects when exposing unborn children to cannabis. [Developing Brain CME Chia-Shan Wu, PhD; Christopher P. Jew; Hui-Chen Lu, PhD CME] Abstract Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance among pregnant women. Human epidemiological and animal studies have found that prenatal cannabis exposure influences brain development and can have long-lasting impacts on cognitive functions. Exploration of the therapeutic potential of cannabis-based medicines and synthetic cannabinoid compounds has given us much insight into the physiological roles of endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids) and their receptors. In this article, we examine human longitudinal cohort studies that document the long-term influence of prenatal exposure to cannabis, followed by an overview of the molecular composition of the endocannabinoid system and the temporal and spatial changes in their expression during brain development. How endocannabinoid signaling modulates fundamental developmental processes such as cell proliferation, neurogenesis, migration and axonal pathfinding are also summarized. Introduction Cannabis is the world’s third most popular recreational drug, after alcohol and tobacco.[201] The hallmarks of its effects are euphoria and relaxation, perceptual alterations, time distortion, appetite inducement and the intensification of ordinary sensory experiences.[1] Cannabis preparations are largely derived from the female plant of Cannabis sativa, and consist of approximately 60 plant-derived cannabinoid compounds (phytocannabinoids), with ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the predominant psychoactive constituent.[2] Efforts aimed at understanding how THC produces its psychoactive effects have led to the…

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…