Many women with menopausal symptoms are turning to cannabis for help, researchers have found, despite a lack of evidence that the drug works for these problems.
In a survey of perimenopausal and menopausal women who said they had used cannabis, nearly 80 percent said they used medical marijuana to relieve symptoms such as sleep disturbances, hot flashes, and mood swings.
“We are seeing more and more individuals exploiting the use of cannabis and cannabinoids for many conditions. We realized that there was a lack of long-term data on how women were treated for conditions such as menopause,” said Staci Gruber, PhD, director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program at Harvard University, who led the study.
Gruber and colleagues surveyed 131 perimenopausal and 127 postmenopausal women about their cannabis use, identifying them through targeted advertising and social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Reddit.
The survey, published on August 2 a menopause, found that 83.5% reported regular cannabis use and 86% said they were current users. About half of the women reported mixed medical/recreational use; 30.8% reported only recreational use and 17.7% said they only used medical forms of the drug.
The three most common ways to consume cannabis were smoking a pig, a bowl or a bong (84.3%); using edible (78.3%) and vaporizing oils (52.6%).
The researchers also found that perimenopausal women had markedly worse symptoms than menopausal women, and these women tended to use a wider variety of cannabis products.
Gruber said doctors should ask their menopausal patients if they use cannabis to relieve their symptoms.
Stephanie Faubion, MD, MBA, a women’s health expert at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and Jacksonville, Florida, said the looming question is whether cannabis actually works in these patients.
“What we need is to find out if it works for women, and that hasn’t been studied yet,” she said.
Faubion, who is also the chief medical officer of the North American Menopause Society, said the society is conducting a review of global data on non-hormonal treatments for menopausal symptoms. The report, which will examine the most current research on the effects of cannabis, hypnosis, diet, exercise, acupuncture, yoga and meditation, will be published in 2023, he said.
Gruber said he hopes his group’s research opens the door to more detailed explorations of how cannabis strains and their levels of cannabidiol, a chemical compound in the cannabis plant, and tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component of cannabis, , affect the symptoms experienced by women after menopause. . Clinical trials of products targeting specific symptoms will also be important, he added.
“We have little data from primary care physicians,” Gruber said. “We, as researchers and clinicians, should provide women with the research to make informed decisions.”
The study was supported by private donations to McLean Hospital’s Marijuana Research for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program. There was no funding source involved in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of data; manuscript preparation, review, or approval; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
Gruber reported grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Foria/Praxis Ventures, and Charlotte’s Web. He also reported personal quotas for the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education and Regulation; Beth Israel Deaconess; Fenway Health; Greenwich Biosciences Cannabis Education Working Group; and the National Academy of Neuropsychology outside the work presented. Faubion reports no relevant financial relationships.
menopause. Published online 2 August 2022. Full text
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