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Despite the claim that cannabis lacks scientific study, more research keeps coming forth. New studies done around the world show it’s benefits. But traditionally, studies have focused on results specific to a condition, rather than the patient. The age old question of how pain affects men and women differently continues to rear its controversial head. So the question remains: who gets better pain relief from cannabis, men or women?

Rat whisperers

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A 2014 study at Washington State University made news with rodent models claiming that women found more pain relief than men. The researchers discovered that THC gave lady rats 30% more pain relief.

Craft, the Psychology professor who ran the study, also noted that estrogen plays a significant role in THC sensitivity. Female rats showed peak sensitivity when estrogen levels were highest and starting to come down during ovulation.

But a Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) study this year contradicts that claim. How did they come to their results? Well for starters, they actually used humans.

What humans actually say

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The CUMC study used data from two double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies on 42 human subjects. Participants smoked a set amount of either active or placebo cannabis. Once the dose was ingested, the subjects immersed one hand in a cold-water bath until the pain forced them to remove it.

After the test, the 42 subjects answered a short questionnaire. This study showed men reported a much greater decrease in pain and increase in tolerance compared to women. Regardless of pain relief, male and female subjects reported similar levels of intoxication.

The authors of the study noted that additional factors need to be studied to understand the factors of pain relief.

Gender, pain relief, and cannabis

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When it comes to differences between men and women, some are apparent to the naked eye, but most aren’t. Estrogen levels in participants in the CUMC study weren’t accounted for, so that factor remains on the table. Women for thousands of years used cannabis to treat menstrual cramps, birthing pains, and to increase sexual pleasure.

Men and women also respond differently to certain types of pain. Taken even further, people who have dealt with more extreme pains, such as childbirth or broken bones, have a different scale of tolerance in general. Guys, this does mean we can’t say much, sorry.

When it comes to the preferred cannabis experience, the sexes differ again. Hello MD polled the sexes in California and found that men usually prefer smoked or vaporized cannabis while women prefer tinctures or topicals. Other compilations of customer data also support this general trend of women using more discreet means of cannabis use.

The lens we look through

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What should be taken into account when reading any study on cannabis is who controlled it. The 2014 WSU study was supported by a grant from the NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This agency generally only allows research looking for negative effects of cannabis, not positive ones. One look at the wording of findings confirms this.

Craft said,

We’re more likely to see negative side effects today like anxiety, confusion, panic attacks, hallucinations or extreme paranoia. And women are at higher risk.

Based on rats and from a “drugs are bad” standpoint, that is. The CUMC study results were published online in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Dr. Cooper, leading the study, said,

This study underscores the importance of including both men and women in clinical trials aimed at understanding the potential therapeutic and negative effects of cannabis, particularly as more people use cannabinoid products for recreational or medical purposes.

The takeaway

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Both studies, though varying in methods and results, started with the premise that the effects of THC are inherently bad. For a more accurate understanding of pain relief, we need studies that focus on the beneficial nature of the plant, not the stigma.

Women for millennia have shown that cannabis use certainly helps women deal with pain and discomfort. Men are no exception. In reality, the differences of experience in the sexes remain a mystery, from the pleasure of the female orgasm to the pain of childbirth.

Comparing men to women is like comparing apples to oranges. Very different, but you can put cannabis in both. In the end, cannabis works for both genders.

Cannabis interacts with the body differently based on a number of factors, from mental state to neurological makeup. Looking at gender takes a very broad differential approach.

Are you a woman that uses cannabis for pain relief? Tell us your experiences with effectiveness across the menstrual cycle on social media or in the comments below.

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