Who Gets More Pain Relief from Marijuana?  Men or Women?

Who Gets More Pain Relief from Marijuana? Men or Women?

The answer:  Men.

Men have greater pain relief after smoking marijuana than women, according to a Columbia University Medical Center study published online in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“These findings come at a time when more people, including women, are turning to the use of medical cannabis for pain relief,” said Ziva Cooper, PhD, associate professor of clinical neurobiology (in psychiatry) at CUMC.

“Preclinical evidence has suggested that the experience of pain relief from cannabis-related products may vary between sexes, but no studies have been done to see if this is true in humans,” Dr. Cooper added.

The Columbia University researchers analyzed data from two double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies that looked at the pain relief effects of cannabis in 42 recreational marijuana smokers.  Study participants smoked an equal amount of either an active or a placebo form of cannabis, and then immersed one hand in very cold water until the pain could no longer be tolerated.  Thereafter, the study participants completed a questionnaire about pain from the cold water.

Men reported a significant decrease in pain sensitivity and an increase in pain tolerance after smoking the active cannabis.  Conversely, women did not experience a significant decrease in pain sensitivity.  They did, however, report a small increase in pain tolerance after smoking active cannabis.

With respect to how intoxicated men and women felt after smoking the equal amounts of cannabis, there was no difference between the two sexes.  There was also no difference in how each sex reported liking the effect of the active cannabis.

The researchers highlighted that additional studies in both sexes are needed to understand the factors that impact the analgesic effects of cannabinoids, which are the active chemicals in cannabis products, including strength, mode of delivery, frequency of use and type of pain measured.

“This study underscores the importance of including both men and women in clinical trials aimed at understanding the potential therapeutic and negative effects of cannabis, particularly as more people use cannabinoid products for recreational or medical purposes,” said Dr. Cooper.

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Authored by: Staff

There are 11 comments for this article
  1. Kurt S at 3:51 pm

    I have been a pain patient for nine years. I have to many problems to describe but I was in s terrible car accident and worked physical out side jobs my whole life coming home everyday miserable
    I used heating pads,traction machine.Tens machine and anything I thought may help including Marijuana that helped with pain and severe depression.I have been under a doctor’s care since the accident for nine years and tore my rotator cuff at work and had a great relationship with my doctor.I don’t abuse my meds.Then the drug test came into effect turning my doctor into the police and given power over my life that no man should have. On my first visit I was honest and told my doctor I smoked Marijuana and how it helped my pain and depression. People don’t understand chronic pain unless they are in those shoes.Now am on disability and require the medicine just to try to have any kind of a normal life and yes I failed a test with a low level result of THC. Now I may lose my meds. The test have caused more problems than helped. The test don’t catch abusers or seller’s of their meds
    It has just caused corruption and billions in Medicare fraud inriching the labs doctor kick backs and over charging for test and when you think about the test all they have done is create jobs at labs and package delivery jobs hauling urine all over the country. Only two percent of pain patients abuse or sell their meds.The test don’t catch the two percent that are smart enough to make sure they have have the correct amount of pill’s in their bottles and meds in their system. Most people that OD die because of the legal drug alcohol mixed with their meds and again they don’t get caught with alcohol in their urine because it only takes a few hours to get out of the system.No one has overdosed with their meds and marijuana.I am all for random pill counts because that is how you catch sellers and abusers not drug test. I have never been called in to have my medicine and I signed the document to have my meds counted and you want to know why. Their is no way to make money with random counts so the government doesn’t really care about stopping abuse and seller’s of their meds. But there is billions to be made with the test.

  2. Mathew at 9:31 pm

    I won’t bore you with the plethora of physical flaws I deal with, but like the majority, the healthcare industry is currently placing my life in jeopardy. I am going to be 57 in September and injuried myself in my mid 40’s. It’s been a difficult and very long 10 years, but while many in my condition are bed ridden, I have been fortunate/blessed to be able to do more than many.

    For the last decade, I had a perfected regime with the use of oxycodone. 90mgs daily without any request to “up” my meds. Knowing that my condition is degenerative and without a surgical remedy, I realize that my pain level has increased, but I use my opioids to keep exercise a consistent part of my life for the past decade. I works exceeding well to supplement my natural opioids, Endorphins, so when I use it, my daily regiment works to generate my natural pain killers.
    If I sleep, I get on average 4-5 hours a night/day.
    In the morning I wake with a scream into conscience.

    Now with the government giving me my walking papers, I am pushing myself to find an alternative. Where I live, the streets are flooded with illegal Mexican imports. I refuse to even consider it as an alternative, but I did decide to try marijuana on two seperate occasions (3-4 day supply). I have to say that it did a great job to alleviate my pain, but I did not like the side effects.

    With oxycodone, my cognitive and physical skills are not impeded. It simply allows me to maintain a quality of life. The country is on a forward momentum to replace opioids with THC, but for me, it may not work. When I use it, there is no doubt it alters perception. It lowered my response time in decision making and dexterity. To sum it up, I would not feel comfortable driving a car under it’s influence, even in very small amounts.

    I may however, not have a choice if I wish to continue to strive for a shower at least once a week or be able to live in a universe beyond my bedroom or recliner.

    Has anyone had success with Merinol?

  3. Mary s at 1:58 pm

    John Hamm, can you tell me the meds you take for your RSD? I use 2 meds for my RSD, but they are not working anymore. I take my meds and yes it helps but for a couple of hours. I feel the wearing off and full pain coming back on.
    I had 2 neck surgeries a chiropractor gave me a sideway whiplash, broke my disk into 3 pieces one wedged in nerve root other 2 floated in my spinal canal. So the chunk of my disk laying on my nerve root for 22 months before the 28 Dr’s all ( they wanted to cut this huge lump of spasms out of my should area, at c5-c6 area. Anyway they realized it was a herniated disk only. But was too late. 22 months the chunk of disk sat on my nerve root at c5-c6 and I’m in chronic pain 24-7. Dr. Said like jello all melted in between my nerves, nerve endings and so much more damage.
    Although the spine dr. Told me I have RSD in my right arm & whole side from the base of my skull down all of my right side of my body. Totally debilating. I take 1 pain pill and 1 muscle relaxer every 4 hours. That seems to kinda take the edge off my pain, I can get up and shower and not be in bed. But they just down graded my muscle relaxer took 60 pill per month away from me. Why I know. This injury is 30 years old. I told my spine dr when all the spasms from the nerves, well I told him I want a quality of life verses quantify of life because it does seem to matter, because the pain is horrible 24-7. I’m at isleostyle@hotmsil.com if you want to contact me? If your meds work for you I m hoping you might give me the names and they working for you? Also been told by many dr. They can’t help me. Except give me meds! Thank you! Mary S.

  4. Paul Harvey at 4:27 pm

    I have Arachnoiditis, a SEVERE, cronic, deserve of the spine where nerves are scarred and clump togetjer, and cause unimaginable pain in various areas below my chest. Arachnoiditis has been described as producing “all the pain of the worst types of cancer, without the ultimate relief of death”, and suicide numbers for sufferers have been reported as being around 30% or so…. I have been taking increasing amounts of various opiates for over 8 years now, and tolerating them fairly well, but am looking forward to my state’s implimentation of legal, medical Marijuana which should start around the end of the year, as I HAVE experimented with it and find it quite helpful with pain and anxiety, but am anxious to be able to try known strains with different characteristics that have been fleshed out by others suffering from my condition in the states where it is legal. Especially considering the trend towards denying the millions in pain their much needed pain killers because thousands overdose from not using them appropriately.

  5. Aly at 12:23 pm

    I have fibromyalgia, and c-spine Arthritis. Female 37. Marijuana helps me to to move to I can get out of bed , move, and half way function. I can’t even shower with out extreme pain. Marijuana allows me to be able to tolerate the pain . There is other option if pain medication will.not work for you. And some people need to use the pain medication alone with the the marijuana.

  6. Joan Hamm at 10:50 am

    Dear Pain Report. With respect I say what I find is true only to help you not to be nasty. Maybe what I and others tell you will help people of all ages male or female who suffer with horrible pain diseases. I would gladly be.a volunteer to test any medicines you are discovering. I have had the weirdest things happen to my body in the last 7 years from RSD nerve damage. I documented them. They really should be told to Scientists!!!! I care about others who suffer and we can tell you nightmare stories from ignorant Doctors and Hospitals that don’t understand what RSD. CRPS pain is. Or other pain diseases. Respectfully Joan Hamm.

  7. Bob Schubring at 10:37 am

    I obtained a pre-publication copy of the study from co-author Margaret Haney’s website, “https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Margaret_Haney/publications”. The experiment design is severely flawed in two ways.

    Cooper and Haney describe this as a “placebo-controlled double-blind study”. Their methodology was not double-blinded, and therefore, was not placebo-controlled. My reason for this objection, is that the 21 patients participating in the experiment, either received a cannabis cigarette from out of a tin can of low-grade University of Mississippi/National Institute of Drug Abuse research marijuana, or else took a Dronabinol capsule, which contained cannabis extracts with 0.00% measurable tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. All the patients had a history of “cannabis use disorder” or other cannabis use. The patients, as well as the researchers, knew they were comparing a cannabis “joint”, to a capsule with a research substance in it. (The patients, having smoked cannabis in the past, know the difference between sucking on a cigarette or swallowing a capsule. There’s no circumventing this problem with the experiment design.).

    What Cooper and Haney claim to have discovered, is that humans have the opposite gender-related response to cannabis and pain, that rats showed in another scientist’s study. The other scientist, Dr Liana Fattore working at a competing university in Europe, found that female rats were quicker to learn how to suck on a cannabis cigarette, than male rats were, and that the female rats were less pain-sensitive when under the influence of cannabis, than were the male rats.

    Because Cooper and Haney and the patients all knew whether they were smoking a joint or taking a capsule, the patients would respond to any subtle clues from the researchers, whether to believe that the capsule should have a more-powerful effect than smoking a joint, or should have a less-powerful effect than smoking a joint.

    Apart from that fatal flaw in the design of the experiment, there’s one other small problem. Dronabinol is free of THC but is rich in the drug cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is widely reported to be a more-effective drug for pain, than is THC. But the patients who smoked the cannabis and got dosed with THC, also got CBD from the cannabis smoke (the exact amount was not measured, however, both drugs form simultaneously when cannabis plants grow).

    The science-naive reader who examines this journal article may be misled into believing lots of silly things, because superficially, it seems to have been written by scientists. However, the scientific method was not used. The results are subject to an unknown bias that was introduced by the researchers’ interaction with the 21 patients who participated. Like many other junk-science journals, this particular journal is not subject to peer review.

    For non-scientists who read this comment: Peer review is a very old process in science writing. The journal editor asks another scientist or two, who have worked in the same field as the author of the article, to read the article and ask the author questions about the work. Peer review generally results in better articles, because in the process of answering the other scientists’ questions, the scientist writing the article may discover new facts about his or her own research, that didn’t seem important at first. Peer review also helps discover blunders in one’s logic or interpretation of what one observed. A peer-reviewed journal might have gotten the European researchers to ask Cooper and Haney some questions about their work at Columbia, and Cooper and Haney might have been asked to peer-review the work that was done in Europe. But because this particular journal does not use peer review, they published an article with clearly-flawed methodology, and we all wasted our time reading it.

  8. K Cooper at 9:22 am

    These kinds of Limited and kind of silly “Studies” are just not that relevant. I often wonder why these so called “Pain Groups” even put them on their sites. This is the kind of Fluff we expect from Daytime TV or the Big Pharma, driven discourse. There must be some more scientific and relevant “Research” on this topic, yet here we are another Limited, self selected not too scientific “Study” to add more confusion to the subject.
    There could be a lot of explanations here, since submerging an arm in “Bucket of Ice Water” is supposed to simulate Pain. Women have smaller arms, so the Ice-water would affect them more. If one of the Research Assistants was attractive, it might have distracted the male test subjects, or led them to report lower pain levels. There are too may variables here to make any kind of claim. Certainly it is important to include both men and woman in any study of any Medication.
    This group of test subjects were self selected, meaning they were all recreational users of Marijuana, so already they enjoy it for “Recreational Purposes.” There are many people who do not enjoy the effects of marijuana for “Recreational Purposes” yet might use it Medicinally. There appears to be various differences between the Genders in Pain reporting, responses to Medications, and types of pain. The biggest issue is the difference in attitudes towards women with pain, it more likely to be dismissed, and women are less likely to be believed. This would be a more meaningful “Study.”
    There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that many woman get relief from “Period Pain” with Marijuana, yet this kind of Pain relief would not be reflected in a limited “Study” like this.
    The US has prohibited the Scientific Study of Marijuana, so the only real evidence we have is Anecdotal. Like anything else people will respond differently to it. There are a lot of people who claim it works for pain, and little evidence that it is dangerous, and no one has ever died from marijuana. Like so may other things, “We just don’t have the Research.” Marijuana has been illegal in the US for the last century. While Humans have used it Medicinally since the Stone Age.
    As Pain Patients or “Advocates” we should be demanding real Research, not more of this kind of meaningless unscientific fluff. These kinds of “Studies” obfuscate the lack of research, making it appear that there is “Research.” Since most of the Pain Dialogue has been funded by Big Pharma, we should be asking how is this affecting the lack of research or the quality of Research. Why do we have to rely on word of mouth and anecdotal information?

  9. Angel at 7:19 am

    Medical marijuana has been a miracle for me. I’m a 35 year old woman with blood cancer which waxes and wanes acute and then chronic who also suffers from a multitude of other issues (crohns endometriosis and epilepsy). Marijuana has given me freedom from the fear of that day we all have feared, the day when the Gov makes it too hard to get your medication and you just can’t, I know now that I will survive. I may survive bed ridden and miserable but I will make it. It helps me a great deal. I still have issues at times with the head fuzziness, with my pain medication I have no sense of altered perception as I do with marijuana. This can be mitigated by finding the right dose, the right method of delivery (I smoke and vape as edibles are too strong with my bowel issues) and the right strains of marijuana. I hope others find freedom from pain and the stress of oppressive regulation on pain patients and their providers. It’s been a miracle for me I hope others also enjoy less pain with marijuana.

  10. Pain Patient at 6:20 am

    Two comments. First, from reading this article, you cannot tell whether they had filled out the questionnaire before the study to see if the woman had lower pain tolerance to begin with.

    Second, just the name of the journal suggests bias.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  11. Joan Hamm at 4:24 am

    I have RSD! /Crps which is a nerve damage extreme pain Disease. My meds have been approved by a scientist who studies RSD and Dr. Chopra who wrote books on RSD… CRPS told to my Dr on a 3way call two times since I got RSD. Six years ago. That my meds are common for RSD patients that eases the pain so one can function and live. And even volunteer when possible. I have a friend who’s son smokes marijuana cigarettes. I asked her if she could get me one to test to see if marijuana helps my pain. After 3 months I finally tried one. It immediately made me sick and a horrible headache!!! So now I know it does not work to ease my pain and I can tell Doctors this. My meds I am on is common for RSD patients and I can feel the meds know exactly where to go in my body to ease the pain! I never once got high on these meds!!! Which is what I needed was for the meds to go right to RSD area and ease the pain so I can live. RSD / CRPS have to be put on top of the list of pain diseases!!! The pain can get as bad or worse than Cancer or other pain diseases. My meds have been approved by a 3 way call from my Doctor and a Dr. who wrote books on RSD and a Scientist who studies RSD. They are common pain relievers for RSD. Marijuana does not work!!! I have RSD for six years now. Went to many Doctors and many never heard of RSD yet our Soldiers come back from war with it on the top five list from I injuries they get at war. My meds work as it does for most RSD patients. If you take our meds away that work you will be commiting murder to these patients who cannot handle the horrible pain from RSD!!!!! Marijuana did not help me .