Study: Is Marijuana More Addictive for Women?

By Ellen Holland on May 24, 2016

New research conducted by Women’s Health Research at Yale (WHRY) is set to examine whether women are more likely to become addicted to marijuana than their male counterparts. The study, which comes as part of an announcement funding research on a grouping of female health issues including ovarian cancer, obesity and heart attacks, will examine how smoking cannabis affects the brain in women and men. According to the study’s lead researcher Kelly Cosgrove, there are differences between the ways males and females start to use marijuana, progress to dependence and experience the symptoms of withdrawal.

“Cannabis is generally thought of as a safe drug despite a substantial number of studies showing negative, potentially long‐term effects on the brain, including cognitive dysfunction and mental illness,” Cosgrove told the Yale News. “Over the past 30 years, cannabis has become increasingly potent, with its major psychoactive ingredient content growing from an average of 1.5 percent before the 1980s to current strains that contain upwards of 25 percent.”

In her previous research Cosgrove and her team developed a type of brain scan to access neurological differences experienced by men and women while smoking a tobacco cigarette. This method of examination will be adapted in the new study, except the subjects will be analyzed while smoking marijuana.

“Neurochemical sex differences have been documented for tobacco smoking and alcohol dependence, and we need to find out if there are sex differences in the neurochemistry of cannabis use in humans,” Cosgrove said. “We need to investigate these differences so people can understand what cannabis does to their brains and — for people who become addicted — allow for the development of gender-sensitive treatments.”

The release announcing the study’s funding cites a 2014 report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration which states that 4.2 million Americans have marijuana use disorder, something that’s defined when marijuana “causes significant problems with health or the ability to meet responsibilities.”

The WHRY research is being funded by the Wendy U. and Thomas C. Naratil Pioneer Award, which was established in 2014 advance research studies exposing gender differences in health.

What do you think? Do you consider yourself addicted to marijuana?