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Medical Marijuana Works Better for Pain in Men than Women?

A new study reveals that medical marijuana may be more effective for pain tolerance in men than women.

Pain currently makes up the largest segment of the medical marijuana market, far surpassing all other conditions. According to a recent study, pain accounts for 64 percent of the qualifying conditions of medical marijuana patients. The second most prominent indication is muscle spasms at just 13 percent.

However, pre-clinical trials in animals have shown that medical marijuana for pain reduction may be more effective for men, so Columbia University Medical Center researchers wanted to test the theory in humans.

The study,“Sex-Dependent Effects of Cannabis-Induced Analgesia,” which was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence on Aug. 5, 2016, was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which typically funds research into the negative effects of cannabis.

The study consisted of 42 participants (21 males and 21 females) who smoked marijuana as part of two double-blind, placebo controlled studies. The participants were instructed to smoke either a placebo or marijuana containing either 3.5 or 5.5 percent THC. They then completed what is called the Cold-Pressor Test, where each participant puts their hand in cold water (around 4° C) until they can no longer stand the pain.

Pain sensitivity and tolerance were measured in the amount of time subjects were able to endure the cold water and through a brief questionnaire taken by the participants.

Medical Marijuana Research

While men who smoked marijuana showed a significant decrease in pain sensitivity over the placebo group, in women, the decrease was less. This means that although both groups experienced pain sensitivity reduction due to cannabis, marijuana was more effective in men. However, marijuana provided pain-relieving effects immediately after smoking for both men and women. When it came to pleasure and intoxication, both sexes also reported similar results.

According to the study’s authors, “These results indicate that in cannabis smokers, men exhibit greater cannabis-induced analgesia relative to women. As such, sex-dependent differences in cannabis’s analgesic effects are an important consideration that warrants further investigation when considering the potential therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for pain relief.”

Study author Ziva Cooper emphasizes the importance of her study in demonstrating the need to include both sexes in clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of marijuana: “These findings come at a time when more people, including women, are turning to the use of medical cannabis for pain relief.”

Dr. Cooper is on the Scientific Advisory Board of KannaLife™ Sciences, a Medical Marijuana, Inc. portfolio company that is using licenses on the government’s patent #6,630,507, Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants, to develop cannabinoid based treatments for a pair of degenerative brain disorders, hepatic encephalopathy (HE) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Commonly associated with repeated concussions, CTE has made national headlines with as many as 96 percent of NFL players suffering from the disease.

The research team has developed a synthetic form of CBD that they hope will benefit athletes competing in contact sports and others who have suffered concussions. The new compound, KLS-13019, is up to 500 times safer and 50 times more potent than naturally occurring CBD, and the body is 10 times more able to absorb the compound.

Dr. Cooper’s team says that more studies in both men and women are needed to better understand the factors that may influence the pain relieving effects of marijuana, such as potency, delivery methods, frequency of use, and type of pain being measured.

In nearly all medical marijuana states, medical marijuana can be recommended for pain. Of the 25 states with medicinal cannabis programs, only Illinois, New Jersey, and New York don’t allow medical marijuana for patients suffering from pain.

Learn more about medical marijuana here or by visiting our education page.