Public Release: 

Smoking marijuana provides more pain relief for men than women

Columbia University Medical Center

NEW YORK, NY (August 18, 2016)--Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) found that men had greater pain relief than women after smoking marijuana.

Results of the study were recently 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."

In this study, the researchers analyzed data from two double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies looking at the analgesic effects of cannabis in 42 recreational marijuana smokers. After smoking the same amount of either an active or placebo form of cannabis, the participants immersed one hand in a a cold-water bath until the pain could no longer be tolerated. Following the immersion, the participants answered a short pain questionnaire.

After smoking active cannabis, men reported a significant decrease in pain sensitivity and an increase in pain tolerance. Women did not experience a significant decrease in pain sensitivity, although they reported a small increase in pain tolerance shortly after smoking.

Despite differences in pain relief, men and women did not report differences in how intoxicated they felt or how much they liked the effect of the active cannabis.

The authors noted that additional studies in both men and women are needed to understand the factors that impact the analgesic effects of cannabinoids, the active chemicals in cannabis products, including strength, mode of delivery (smoked versus oral), 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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The study, titled "Sex-Dependent Effects of Cannabis-Induced Analgesia" was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence on August 5, 2016. The authors are Ziva Cooper and Margaret Haney.

This research was supported by US National Institute on Drug Abuse DA19239, DA09236, and DA027755. Dr. Cooper's research is funded by NIDA. She has received partial salary support for investigator-initiated studies from Insys Therapeutics Inc and serves as a consultant to KannaLife Sciences and PharmaCann, LLC. Dr. Haney's research is funded by NIDA. She has received partial salary support for investigator-initiated studies from Insys Therapeutics Inc and has received research support from Aelis Farma.

The authors report no conflicts of interest relating to the subject of this study.

Columbia University Department of Psychiatry

Columbia Psychiatry holds the top ranking among the psychiatry departments in the nation and has contributed greatly to the understanding and treatment of brain disorders. Co-located at the New York State Psychiatric Institute on the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center campus in Washington Heights, the department enjoys a rich and productive collaborative relationship with physicians in various disciplines at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. Columbia Psychiatry is home to distinguished clinicians and researchers noted for their clinical and research advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, suicide, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and childhood psychiatric disorders.

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit cumc.columbia.edu or columbiadoctors.org.

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