Does Cannabis affect women and men differently?
The majority of research done to date on the topic of gender differences relating to cannabis use patterns, effects and dependence suggests that men are more likely to use cannabis than women, including for medical purposes, more likely to start using it at a younger age, and more likely to become dependent.1–4
The specific question of how cannabis affects men and women differently was investigated by researchers from Washington State University, Bastyr University, and the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy in 2016.5
The authors conducted a survey of 2,374 cannabis users asking them about their experiences. Respondents were shown a list of 41 possible effects of cannabis and were asked to select Yes/No to indicate which they experience after they have used cannabis.
Some of the more interesting findings are listed below.
* This difference was not statistically significant.
Which gender was more likely to report feeling more calm or peaceful? Less anxious or fearful?
Men - 79.6% and 79.2% of men and women, respectfully, reported feeling more calm and peaceful.*
Women - 55.3% and 57.2% of men and women, respectfully, reported feeling less anxious or fearful.*
It is interesting to note that among the 41 possible effects available to respondents, feeling more calm or peaceful was THE most commonly reported effect of using cannabis. Feeling more creative was the second most commonly reported effect.
Which gender was more likely to report increased anxiety?
Women - 8.8% and 9.2% of men and women, respectfully, reported feeling increased anxiety.*
Which gender was more likely to report loss of motivation?
Women - 23.6% and 24.8% of men and women, respectfully.*
Which gender was more likely to report increased motivation?
Women - 47% and 47.6% of men and women, respectfully.*
A much larger percentage of respondents reported increased motivation than loss of motivation.
Which gender was more likely to report increased appetite?
Men - 75.2% and 70% of men and women, respectfully.*
Which gender was more likely to report a desire to clean? =;-)
Women - 36.4% and 47% of men and women, respectfully.*
Which gender was more likely to report an increased sex drive?
Men - 51.3% and 46.4% of men and women, respectfully.*
Which gender was more likely to report feeling tired or sleepy?
Women - 43.2% and 48.1% of men and women, respectfully.*
Which gender was more likely to report feeling more creative?
Men - 75.5% and 71.3% of men and women, respectfully.*
Which gender was more likely to report difficulty making decisions while high?
Men - 12.5% and 9.7% of men and women, respectfully.*
Which gender was more likely to report better social interactions while high?
Men – 49.7% and 45% of men and women, respectfully.*
* This difference was not statistically significant.
The Bottom Line
These comparisons offer some interesting insight into how cannabis affects users, particularly differences between men and women. While most of the gender differences are slight, and not statistically significant, it is also important to look at the commonality across gender. The percentage of individuals reporting feeling calm and peaceful was much higher than those reporting feeling anxious or fearful, almost 80% across gender as compared to below 10% for feeling anxious or fearful. Also, appetite stimulation and feeling more creative were reported by over 70% of respondents across gender. Given the high percentages, it is likely that these effects can be expected when using cannabis for the first time, depending on the dose. Clinically speaking, we have to account for those patients that may fall within the 10% of those reporting anxiety. Setting expectations is key.
Despite the favorable safety profile, dosing and administration of cannabinoids is complicated. The process should be highly individualized, and is best supervised by a trained health care professional. For more information, please consider booking a consultation (telephone or in-person) with Dr. Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH.
1. Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ. Cannabis use and dependence in a New Zealand birth cohort. N Z Med J. 2000;113(1109):156-158. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10894340. Accessed March 31, 2017.
2. Grant JD, Scherrer JF, Neuman RJ, Todorov AA, Price RK, Bucholz KK. A comparison of the latent class structure of cannabis problems among adult men and women who have used cannabis repeatedly. Addiction. 2006;101(8):1133-1142. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01463.x.
3. Wagner FA, Anthony JC. Male–female differences in the risk of progression from first use to dependence upon cannabis, cocaine, and alcohol. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2007;86(2-3):191-198. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2006.06.003.
4. Agrawal A, Lynskey MT. Does gender contribute to heterogeneity in criteria for cannabis abuse and dependence? Results from the national epidemiological survey on alcohol and related conditions. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2007;88(2-3):300-307. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2006.10.003.
5. Cuttler C, Mischley LK, Sexton M. Sex Differences in Cannabis Use and Effects: A Cross-Sectional Survey of Cannabis Users. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2016;1(1):166-175. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0010.