A new study suggests that men receive greater pain relief and pain sensitivity from smoking cannabis than do women, according to researchers with the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Department of Psychiatry and the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).
In the study, forty-two men and women smoked identical amounts of cannabis in either active or placebo forms. The participants then had their hands immersed in cold water — a pain response test known as the Cold-Pressor Test (CPT) — until the pain was no longer tolerable.
In a questionnaire following the water exercise, men were reported as having an increase in tolerance for pain and a significant decrease in sensitivity to pain. Women did not register a significant decrease in sensitivity to pain; they did, however, register as having a small increase in tolerance of pain, though not as prominently as did the male participants.
Though the study did find a difference in the ways in which men and women respond to pain after consuming cannabis, it showed no difference in abuse liability — that is, factors such as intoxication and enjoyment of the substance.
Researchers pointed out that the results of the study — published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence — are important to literature on the issue, as more people nationwide begin using cannabis for medicinal purposes.
“These findings come at a time when more people, including women, are turning to the use of medical cannabis for pain relief,” said Ziva Cooper, Ph.D., a CUMC associate professor of clinical neurobiology in psychiatry, in a press release. “Preclinical evidence has suggested that the experience of pain relief from cannabis-related products may vary between sexes, but no studies have been done to see if this is true in humans.”
Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia currently allow for the medicinal use of cannabis, with prescriptions offered for pain relief, nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation, among other uses.
The study’s authors wrote that increased research must be carried out over the coming years into the efficacy of cannabis use — especially in regards to the substance’s varying effects on the sexes — and into the ways in which individuals respond to the strength of different strains, the frequency with which the substance is used, and how those factors respond to different medical conditions.
“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,” wrote Dr. Cooper.
The study is not the first to find a difference between men and women in regards to their reactions to certain drugs: Many substances — from antidepressants to blood thinners to painkillers, among others — have been found to react differently within men than within women.
Stephen Calabria is a New York City-based journalist and a media advisor for nyvapeshop.com.