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Studies Suggest Women More Likely to Become Habitual Cannabis Users

A meta-study of cannabis research reveals that female mammals — including humans — are more likely to habitually consume cannabis, Science Daily reports.

The review of research published in the journal Frontiers looked at a wide range of animal and human studies regarding cannabis use and the mammalian endocannabinoid system and compared that to changes in hormones and hormone-driven body systems and associated behaviors.

It’s clear that risks and outcomes of cannabis use differ between biological sexes. Males appear more likely to try cannabis and use higher doses. Females appear more likely to go from trying cannabis to developing a regular habit of use.

Researchers theorize that this is due to a complicated web of hormone-system effects that differ between the sexes and are modulated by cannabinoids. While testosterone increases risk-taking behavior, estrogen seems to control social behavior and the filtering of sensory input. Cannabinoids change the levels of different hormones in the body, which may influence behavior. Those changed behaviors will, depending on the individual, create feedback loops that further change the level of hormones in the body beyond what cannabis may be directly responsible for.

Dr. Liana Fattore, one of the study’s authors, said, “Females seem to be more vulnerable, at a neurochemical level, in developing addiction to cannabis.”

“Gender-tailored detoxification treatments and relapse prevention strategies for patients with cannabis addiction are increasingly requested. Optimizing personalized evidence-based prevention and treatment protocols demands further research on the source of sex disparities in cannabis response.” — Dr. Liana Fattore

Dr. Fattore was clear that more high-quality research is needed on humans before stronger conclusions can be drawn. The relationship between cannabinoids and behavior, however, appears to be connected to differing sex hormone profiles.

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