The stigma around cannabis usage is fading as cannabis laws become increasingly lax. Now, researchers from DePaul University in Chicago have found that women are generally more open than men to substitute prescription medicines with cannabis to treat chronic illness and pain.
For the study, the researchers conducted a cross-sectional online survey of 361 medical cannabis users in Illinois. After gathering the data, they summarized each participant's qualifying conditions, symptoms treated with medical cannabis, perceived physician support for usage of the plant, and use of medical cannabis and prescription medications. They then analyzed gender differences.
All in all, they found that while men are generally more supported to use medical cannabis by both specialists and primary care physicians, women are more likely to use cannabis after obtaining a medical cannabis card. They are also more likely to discontinue using other prescription medications in favor of medical cannabis. This comes even though men are more likely to have more experience using cannabis than women.
Why exactly women are more likely to swap out prescribed medication for medical cannabis remains unclear. However, previous research has found that women tend to engage with complementary or alternative medicine differently from men. A study conducted in 2015, for example, found that women are more likely to access preventative health services and use alternative medicine for conditions, including pain and mental health conditions. Whether or not cannabis can be perceived as preventative or alternative medicine, however, is unclear, especially as more studies supporting its effectiveness emerge.
While the findings offer a glimpse of gender-based usage habits for those using medical cannabis, the researchers say that usage patterns should be further studied before firm conclusions can be made. They wrote, "Future research on gender differences in this population may benefit from more detailed data related to symptomology, utilization, dosing, and outcomes associated with MC, and interactions with the health care system to extend these findings."