America is experiencing a new wave of reefer madness—except this time, we’ve flipped the script. What the 1930s once considered a “deadly scourge” is now lauded as holistic medicine capable of potentially treating a myriad of physical and mental ailments.
From those with Parkinson’s to veterans with PTSD, people from all walks of life are starting to turn toward cannabis to alleviate their symptoms. A recent study published in the scientific journal Menopause suggests that cannabis might also have a rightful place in women’s health care.
According to the study, cannabis has become increasingly more popular among women for dealing with menopause-related symptoms. Yet just because it’s more common, does that also mean it’s safe?
Baking The Data
Thanks to the increased access to medical cannabis, the study’s premise was to more closely examine the number of women turning to cannabis to alleviate menopause-related symptoms. Researchers mainly recruited participants through targeted social media ads, with most of the participants being white, non-Hispanic, middle-aged women who were either perimenopausal or postmenopausal.
Participants began by outlining their most burdensome symptoms. The top three mentioned were sleep issues, tiredness, and a general lack of energy.
86.1% of study participants already consumed cannabis, and 78.7% endorsed medical cannabis use to mitigate menopausal symptoms. Around 84% of participants smoked, while 78% opted for edibles. Based on these self-reported numbers, the study suggests that more and more women are turning to cannabis to treat menopause-related symptoms, particularly for sleep and mood issues.
But is it just easier to ignore symptoms while you’re high? What about weed makes it so sought after in treating menopause’s most stubborn symptoms?
How Cannabis Might Help Menopause Symptoms
While the research on cannabis use specifically for treating menopause symptoms has been limited, the general health effects of cannabis have been studied a bit more.
Speaking to Healthline, Dr. Aaron Gelfand, an OB-GYN at ChoicePoint, explained that numerous physiological systems are thought to be affected by the use of THC or CBD (which activate the endocannabinoid system).
Things such as body temperature, mood, stress, and sleep can all be impacted by cannabis use. Additionally, Gelfand pointed out that cannabis is used to treat anxiety, depression, and even vaginal dryness in menopausal women.
“The amygdala is responsible for emotions, behavior, and motivation,” Gelfand told Healthline. “During menopause, all of these are heightened. Upon taking cannabis in any form, the response is suppressed, causing less anxiety and depression.”
Despite the promising sound of all this, Gelfand cautioned that not all users react to cannabis use the same, particularly those who ingest THC. In particular, THC may have a stimulating effect on some which could in turn make it even harder to fall asleep.
Some Health Professionals Say CBD Might Be Safer
As a brief overview, cannabidiol, aka CBD, is a chemical found in marijuana that doesn’t contain the psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Both CBD and THC are shown to have similar medical benefits, but CBD seems to be better tolerated with fewer side effects than THC.
David Culpepper, clinical director of LifeMD, is one medical professional who is more comfortable with patients using CBD over THC for treating menopause symptoms.
“In my experience, most of the anti-inflammatory and other health benefits patients receive from cannabis products come not from THC, but from CBD, which is a benign, non-psychoactive compound,” Culpepper told Healthline. “It’s possible that women using cannabis for menopause are reaping the benefits of the CBD, while unnecessarily intoxicating themselves with THC.”
This opinion seems to largely come from the fact that very little research has been done specifically on the use of cannabis with THC to treat menopause symptoms.
More Research Is Needed
More research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis use for those suffering from perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. This is particularly true in evaluating CBD’s and THC’s individual contributions (and potential side effects) in this matter.
Moreover, combustible marijuana (weed you smoke) poses its own problems. While research suggests smoking marijuana is less harmful to the lungs than tobacco, the risk is not zero. Any combustion (even vaping) is hard on the lungs, and prolonged exposure to smoke or irritants can result in respiratory ailments.
No two menopauses are alike, and not everyone will benefit from medical cannabis. That said, it’s clear it’s a solution more and more women are turning to ease menopause symptoms. Like any health-related issue, it’s always advised to speak to your doctor first to decide if trying cannabis may be a good option for you.