A study carried out by researchers from Columbia University Medical Center has concluded that men experience greater pain relief than women after smoking marijuana.
CUMC researchers examined data from two double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies researching the analgesic effects of cannabis in 42 recreational marijuana smokers.
After smoking either an active or placebo form of cannabis, the participants immersed one hand in a cold-water bath until the pain could no longer be tolerated, then answered a short pain questionnaire.
Men reported a significant decrease in pain sensitivity and an increase in pain tolerance. However, women in the study experienced no significant decrease in pain sensitivity and only a small increase in pain tolerance.
The differences were independent of cannabis-elicited subjective effects; e.g. feelings of well-being.
It’s an important study, but the researchers state further research is needed to help understand various factors impacting on the analgesic effects of cannabinoids. These include potency, method of delivery, frequency of consumption and various types of pain.
The research highlights the fact that gender balance is required in clinical trials. There’s quite a few studies that have indicated benefits in pain management through the use of cannabis, but results rarely distinguish between male and female; which may skew results.
“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,” said Dr. Ziva Cooper, PhD, associate professor of clinical neurobiology (in psychiatry) at CUMC.
As with some vitamin preparations, it may be that cannabis medicines design to tackle pain relief may require tailoring according to gender – a “his ‘n hers” range of products.
With as many as one in five Americans living with chronic pain at any given time; effective products could have a huge impact on improving the quality of life for many millions of people.
The study, “Sex-Dependent Effects of Cannabis-Induced Analgesia” was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence earlier this month.
Dr. Cooper has been building on her training in preclinical models of drug dependence for more than a decade, and developing an expertise in human laboratory studies on cannabis, cannabinoids, opioids, and cocaine.