Sometimes we humans like to think that regardless of sex, we’re all alike; that—more or less—we share the same goals and interests, range of emotions, and physiologies. But when it comes to smoking, marijuana side effects for men and women vary quite a bit.
In a larger, perhaps spiritual sense, that may be correct. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of our bodies, there are many differences between biologically male and female bodies. In fact, according to researchers, this is true even on the cellular level. At least in subtle ways, every male experience is on some level different than a female one.
Okay, but… what’s this got to do with marijuana? Like any other drug, cannabis behaves differently in male in female bodies. The differences in marijuana side effects can be slight, or they can be quite marked. Before we can understand what they are, it’s worth dipping into the world of human medical research for a moment.
Men Vs. Women: The Research Gap
Here’s something you might not know: It’s something of a head-scratcher, but by long-standing tradition, researchers studying the effects of drugs on humans often only run trials and experiments on males.
That tradition is slowly changing, but many studies that do include women still fail to break out data and findings by sex. Because men and women are biologically and physiologically distinct from one another, that’s a potentially major fail in terms of gathering knowledge about drugs in the human body.
Fortunately, some researchers are tackling this gap head-on, by performing detailed analyses of cannabis studies to try and weed out—no pun intended—sex-based differences in the experience of marijuana side effects.
Real-Life Experience: How do Marijuana Side Effects Differ for Men and Women?
One finding supported by the aforementioned research was that while we all develop a tolerance to cannabis, women tend to develop one more quickly.
This tolerance reacts to the menstrual cycle as well, varying with differing levels of estrogen at any given time. Broadly speaking, women tend to become more sensitive to THC around the time of ovulation. If you’re female, you may want to spend a little extra time talking up your friendly budtender for specific strain recommendations, keeping in mind that you may require less THC—and more anti-inflammatory CBD—to get the effects you desire during this time.
Take careful note: Women are also more likely to experience visuospatial disorientation after using cannabis. Essentially, simple tasks like finding your way in unfamiliar surroundings—or remembering where you left your keys—can be more challenging after smoking.
Also, women tend to use marijuana for different purposes than men. Much of that is due to cannabis’s helpful effects during menstruation, though sleep regulation is also a common reason.
And unfortunately, when women do want to take an herbal holiday or quit altogether, they also tend to experience more unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, according to a 2010 study.
If cannabis presents special challenges for women, there are some distinct upsides as well. For one, very broadly speaking, cannabis has a more reliably aphrodisiac effect on females than it does on men.
Rather than relying on assumptions and hearsay, we truly hope that this science-based approach to the effects of cannabis gives you a little insight into what makes it such potentially powerful medicine, not to mention an enjoyable recreational drug. The more you know about your physiology and how it interacts with cannabis—or, for that matter, any drug—the better able you’ll be to make well-informed decisions about your body and your health.
If you’re concerned about how cannabis may affect you, make sure to discuss your needs with your budtender.