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Women’s Health
Cannabis Use Affects Women Differently

As we enter an era of legalization, cannabis use is increasingly prevalent. Variances in the risks for women and men have been observed. For most age groups, men have higher rates of use or dependence on illicit drugs than women. However, women are equally likely as men to progress to a substance use disorder. Women may be more susceptible to craving and relapse , which are key phases of the addiction cycle. A study on use among adolescents concluded there was preliminary evidence of a faster transition from initiation of marijuana use to regular use in women, when compared with men (Schepis, et al. J Addict Med. 2011;5[1]:65).

Dr. Anita Rajagopal

Research studies suggest that marijuana impairs spatial memory in women more so than in men. Studies have suggested that teenage girls who use marijuana may have a higher risk of brain structural abnormalities associated with regular marijuana exposure than teenage boys (Tapert, et al. Addict Biol. 2009;14[4]:457).

A study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology showed that cannabinoid receptor binding site densities exhibit sex differences and can be modulated by estradiol in several limbic brain regions. These findings may account for the sex differences observed with respect to the effects of cannabinoids (Riebe, et al. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2010;35[8]:1265).

Further research is needed to expand our understanding of the interactions between cannabinoids and sex steroids. Detoxification treatments tailored toward women and men with cannabis addiction show a promising future and necessitate further research.

Anita Rajagopal, MD
Steering Committee Member

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