Research shows why men and women react differently to cannabis

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Marijuana effects appear to be sex-dependent, according to recent research

A new study seems to indicate that marijuana reacts differently depending on the sex of the consumer. According to researchers, sex hormones – estrogen, testosterone and progesterone – can trigger different results on the body, causing women to be more vulnerable to the effects of consumption than are men.

The results were published in the Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience journal. While the tests were only conducted on animals, they still provide interesting results related to how the hormones can affect the endocannabinoid system in the body.

Says Dr. Liana Fattore, Senior Researcher at the National Research Council of Italy and co-author of the study, “It has been pretty hard to get laboratory animals to self-administer cannabinoids like human cannabis users. However, animal studies on the effects of sex hormones and anabolic steroids on cannabinoid self-administration behavior have contributed a lot to our current understanding of sex differences in response to cannabis.”

According to the researchers, women are more apt to develop a habit than are men. Fattore explained, “Females seem to be more vulnerable, at a neurochemical level, in developing an addiction to cannabis. Studies in rats show that the female hormone estradiol affects control of movement, social behavior and filtering of sensory input to the brain — all targets of drug taking — via modulation of the endocannabinoid system, whose feedback, in turn, influences estradiol production…As a result, the interactions between the endocannabinoid system and the brain level of dopamine — the neurotransmitter of ‘pleasure’ and ‘reward'” are sex-dependent.”

The study is important for several reasons. Not only does it help to identify patterns in marijuana use and its effect on individuals, but it can also help lead to creating gender-specific detoxification treatments, as well as relapse prevention programs that are more in line with the user’s physiological makeup.