It’s National Women’s Health Week: let's talk about women, pain and medical marijuana

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In honor of National Women’s Health Week, we’re talking all things women and medical marijuana. As a women-owned and operated dispensary and cultivator, we know it’s critical to formulate products, a retail experience, and an approach to patient care that meets the complex healthcare needs of women. We are also cognizant of women in the cannabis space continuing to face social stigmas about their medical marijuana consumption, and remain committed to breaking down these barriers.  

First, let’s talk numbers. According to this report, women currently make up 38 percent of cannabis users, but that is expected to increase to 50 percent by 2022. In fact, the total number of female cannabis consumers grew by 92 percent in 2018.  

What’s bringing women through our dispensary doors? The answer shouldn’t surprise many: chronic pain, often related to endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and even menstrual cramps, among others. Take a look at some of the research our pharmacy team compiled: 

Women’s reproductive organs + the endocannabinoid system

In this comprehensive review of the endocannabinoid system’s role in the female reproductive system, researchers concluded that endocannabinoids play a significant role.  According to the authors, “the endocannabinoid system may represent an important task for researchers dealing with diseases of the female reproductive system characterized by increased invasiveness and proliferation of the endometrium. Among these diseases, endometrial cancer does certainly have a primary role, but also benign pathologies such as endometriosis could benefit from the results of such research. Indeed, the evaluation of chemical compounds acting on the endocannabinoid system will pave the way to develop alternative pharmacological strategies for a disease that, at present, heavily relies on surgical treatments.” 

Endometriosis + medical marijuana 

According to this survey of 484 women between the ages of 18-45 with endometriosis in Australia, cannabis was highly effective in pain reduction. Cannabis, heat, hemp/CBD oil, and dietary changes were the most highly rated in terms of self-reported effectiveness in pain reduction. Physical interventions such as yoga/pilates, stretching, and exercise were rated as being less effective. Authors wrote that “women using cannabis reported the highest self-rated effectiveness.”

Fibromyalgia + medical marijuana

Cannabis rich in THC may be useful in the treatment of fibromyalgia, according to this

experimental placebo-controlled study with three different strains of cannabis. On four different occasions, 20 patients with fibromyalgia received a strain with either 22 mg THC, 13 mg THC and 18 mg CBD, 18 mg CBD, or a placebo. The two strains containing THC caused a significant increase in pressure pain threshold relative to the placebo. CBD inhalation increased THC plasma concentrations but diminished THC-induced analgesic effects, indicative of synergistic pharmacokinetic but antagonistic pharmacodynamic interactions of THC and CBD. Authors wrote that this “experimental trial shows the complex behavior of inhaled cannabinoids in chronic pain patients with just small analgesic responses after a single inhalation.”

In another observational cross-over study with 31 patients suffering from fibromyalgia and lower back pain, a treatment with marijuana had a beneficial effect. The patients were screened, treated with three months of standardised analgesic therapy with opioids and duloxetine. Following three months of this therapy, the patients could opt for additional use of cannabis and were treated for a minimum of six months with cannabis.

While standard treatment led to minor improvements as compared with baseline status, the addition of marijuana allowed a significantly higher improvement in all outcomes at three months after initiation of cannabis treatment and the improvement was maintained at six months. Authors concluded that their study demonstrates an advantage of medical marijuana in fibromyalgia patients with low back pain as compared to standard treatment.

Menstrual cramps + medical marijuana

In this study of myometrium tissue from 78 women, researchers found that the severity of dysmenorrhoea (menstrual cramps) were associated with the level of CB1 receptors in women’s endocannabinoid systems. Authors wrote that these “data suggest that cannabinoid receptor CB1 may be involved in the pathogenesis of dysmenorrhea in adenomyosis and may be a potential therapeutic target.”

In layperson’s terms, this means that the endocannabinoid system’s role in women’s reproductive health and fertility is significant and merits further investigation.

Chronic pain in women + medical marijuana

Medical marijuana was rated the most effective alternative treatment for relieving chronic pain, according to the results of a survey of over 2,400 women in chronic pain. Given a choice of 11 different alternative therapies, many women said they had tried several treatments in the past year. While cannabis was one of the least used alternative therapies, it quickly rose to the top when women were asked about the effectiveness of treatments they had tried. Nearly 80 per cent of the 431 women who used cannabis said it helped relieve their pain.