Gender and Cannabis: How Sex Hormones Impact Your High

photo of a female with pink hair lighting a joint outside, image is helping to demonstrate the interaction of gender and marijuana

A new study published in Science Daily reports that sex hormones affect how people experience cannabis.

The study says that that the sex hormones testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone influence the endocannabinoid system and also determine how cannabinoids in the brain react to cannabis.

Dr. Liana Fattore, President of the Mediterranean Society of Neuroscience, says that researchers monitored male and female animal behavior for the study. Fattore explains that males are four times as likely to try marijuana. Men are also more likely to use high doses more frequently than women.

"Male sex steroids increase risk-taking behavior and suppress the brain’s reward system, which could explain why males are more likely to try drugs, including cannabis," adding that that the behavior is true for synthetic and natural steroids.

Female hormones such as estrogen cause women to use lower dosages of cannabis but increase the risk of habitual cannabis use. "Females seem to be more vulnerable, at a neurochemical level, in developing addiction to cannabis," says Fattore.

"Specifically, female rats have different levels of endocannabinoids and more sensitive receptors than males in key brain areas related to these functions, with significant changes along the menstrual cycle."

Fattore says that human data also indicate that estrogen regulates how a woman responds to cannabinoids, noting that age is also a factor. "Blood levels of enzymes which break down cannabinoids fluctuate across the human menstrual cycle, and imaging studies show that brain levels of cannabinoid receptors increase with aging in females."

The doctor also says that it’s important to expand research to better understand how sex hormones and cannabinoids interact as a means to understand how cannabis use affects society.

Women are 31 Percent of Cannabis Consumers

Learning more about how women respond to cannabis could be excellent marketing as well. Women only account for 31 percent of cannabis consumers in the U.S., according to Bloomberg.

Prohbtd is a cannabis branding and content company in Los Angeles and finds that female consumers are buying more edibles such as cereal bars and gummy bears. People like Adrian Sedlin, of the cannabis brand Canndescent, are looking to target those consumers.

Sedlin says that Canndescent has started tailoring its cannabis products to women. "For us, it was about taking it out of that counter-culture visual and putting an inspirational lifestyle behind it."

Instead of marketing high-potency products, the company is more focused on promoting products that induce sleep, relaxation, pain relief, and socialization. "We made a decision that potency wasn't going to the headline," said Sedlin.