The top three symptoms that participants said were alleviated by cannabis were sleep problems, mood or anxiety disorders, and low libido. Respondents also used the drug to relieve hot flashes, night sweats, body aches, vaginal dryness and pain, and to increase pleasure during sex. Some women took medical cannabis while others used recreational forms. They reported both smoking and the use of edibles as the most common forms of use for self-medication of menopausal symptoms.
“These are important targets for future clinical trials,” said study author Staci Gruber, director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery program at McLean Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “How can the data inform our next steps to optimize treatment options for people with these symptoms?” »
US Medical Cannabis Enrollments Quadrupled from 2016 to 2020
The study did not examine frequency of use, dose, or whether the women had tried other treatments. Another limitation is that most of the participants had previously used drugs, so the results may not apply to women who have never used cannabis before.
One of the reasons cannabis may work for these women is that the substances in cannabis could mimic a chemical compound, anandamide, produced by the ovaries whose production drops during menopause, Gruber said.
Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, which are molecules produced by the body that are structurally similar to cannabinoids, the substances found in the cannabis plant. Endocannabinoids are part of the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates functions such as emotional processing, sleep, and temperature control. It is also known to influence the female reproductive system. For example, anandamide levels have been shown to correlate with estrogen levels, which decline during perimenopause and trigger the onslaught of symptoms.
Javier Mejia-Gomez, gynecologist-oncologist at the Mature Women’s Health and Menopause Clinic at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, has noticed an increase in patients using cannabis to manage their symptoms in recent years. The trend prompted him to search for published research on the subject, but he found very little. Of 564 studies mentioning menopause and cannabis that he initially reviewed, only three ended up being singled out for his systematic review. The rest were either animal studies, of poor quality, or did not directly investigate the impact of cannabis on menopausal symptoms.
“Due to the lack of research and evidence-based medicine on this topic, it is difficult for us to accurately counsel our patients on the use of cannabis for the management of their menopausal symptoms,” Mejia-Gomez said.
Vanessa Fleeton, 53, said she found solace for a flurry of debilitating perimenopause and menopause symptoms such as sleep problems, body aches, anxiety and brain fog thanks to an unexpected – and scientifically unscientific – remedy proven. “Medical marijuana is much better than anything I’ve tried for menopause,” she said.
The most effective treatment for reducing or eliminating the symptoms of menopause is hormone therapy. But the treatment, which can include estrogen alone or estrogen combined with a progestogen, comes with an increased risk of blood clots, stroke and breast cancer. An antidepressant, paroxetine, has also been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat hot flashes.
But many women don’t want to use hormones or take antidepressants. Some try unproven treatments such as over-the-counter supplements and herbal remedies, chiropractic procedures, and acupuncture.
Nola Blackburn, 49, said she doesn’t want to use hormones, so she takes cannabis in pill form daily for her menopausal symptoms. “I find that I sleep better and have fewer nightmares due to anxiety caused by hormonal fluctuations,” said Blackburn, of West Kelowna, British Columbia.
Ilse Blommers, 53, who lives in Bangkok, eats half a cannabis brownie before going to bed. Her perimenopause began four years ago and resulted in night sweats that woke her up at 3 a.m. She decided to try cannabis. “I sleep like a baby,” Blommers said. “My back pain and mood swings are so much better.”
Experts warn that women interested in cannabis for their menopause-related symptoms should proceed with caution. Rigorous clinical trials to demonstrate its effectiveness and safety are needed, said Stephanie Faubion, director of the Center for Women’s Health at Mayo Clinic.
“Everyone is jumping on the cannabis bandwagon, and I think we need to take a step back,” said Faubion, who was not involved in the study. “There is no evidence that it works or is safe, so caution should be exercised.”
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