A survey offers a glimpse into cannabis and CBD use among women in midlife.
Hot flashes and sleep or mood changes are well-known, troubling symptoms that can occur during perimenopause and menopause. Now, a survey shows that nearly 80% of middle-aged women use cannabis to ease some symptoms, such as mood problems and trouble sleeping.
An increasing number of US states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use in recent years. This wave of acceptance goes hand in hand with skepticism in some quarters concerning FDA-approved menopause treatment options, including hormone therapy. But a lack of long-term research data surrounding cannabis use has a Harvard expert questioning just how safe it can be, even while acknowledging its potential effectiveness for some menopausal woes.
Dr. Heather Hirsch, head of the Menopause and Midlife Clinic at Harvard, says, “Every year more and more patients tell me they’ve tried cannabis or CBD (cannabidiol, an active ingredient in cannabis), specifically for sleep or anxiety. for.” Affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Adding to its appeal is that cannabis is now legal in many places and works intensely for a few hours. You don’t need a prescription. Socially, it’s easier to justify using the drug than it is to use it.” Maybe. But why is there a movement toward labeling something whose long-term effects are unknown as something that has been studied and proven to be safe?” she asks.
Survey report on who, why and how uses cannabis
New Harvard-led survey published in the journal menopause, looked at patterns of cannabis use in 131 women in perimenopause – the stretch often lasting years before menstruation stops – along with 127 women who had gone through menopause. Participants were recruited through online postings on social media sites and through an online recruitment platform. Nearly all survey respondents were white and most were middle class, according to income reporting.
The vast majority (86%) were current users of cannabis. Participants were divided on whether they used cannabis for medical reasons, recreational purposes, or both. About 79% favored it for reducing symptoms related to menopause. Of those, 67% said cannabis helped with sleep disturbances, while 46% reported it helped improve mood and anxiety.
Perimenopausal women reported worse menopausal symptoms than their postmenopausal peers, as well as greater use of cannabis to relieve their symptoms. More than 84% of participants reported smoking cannabis, while 78% consumed marijuana edibles, and approximately 53% used vaping oil.
An obvious limitation of the analysis is its self-selected group of participants, which lacked heterogeneity and may have skewed the results. But Dr Hirsch was not surprised by the high proportion reporting regular cannabis use. “I would not be surprised if those numbers reflect the broader population,” she says.
How can cannabis help with symptoms of menopause?
It makes sense that midlife women report that cannabis improves anxiety, mood, and sleep, Dr. Hirsch says. The drug likely helps all of these symptoms by “shrinking down the prefrontal cortex, the decision-making part of our brain.”
For many women, anxiety increases during perimenopause, she notes. Common stressors during that time, such as aging parents or an empty nest, add to the effects of the dipping hormones. “It’s that feeling of, ‘I can’t turn my brain off.’ It’s really upsetting because they come to bed and can’t sleep, so they’re more tired, moody, and irritable the next day,” she explains. Shrinking the prefrontal cortex makes people calmer.
According to survey respondents, hot flashes, often cited as the most common menopause symptom, did not improve as much with cannabis use. That makes sense too, Dr. That’s because the hypothalamus — the brain region believed to be the body’s thermostat — isn’t believed to be significantly affected by the drug, says Hirsch.
No research yet on long term effects
Given the lack of clinical trials to test the effectiveness and safety of cannabis for managing menopausal symptoms, more research is clearly needed.
“If people are finding relief from cannabis, great. But is it safe? We think so, but we don’t know,” she says. “There have been no studies of middle-aged women using cannabis for 10 years, which is when menopausal symptoms often last. Are there going to be long-term effects on memory? On lung function? We don’t know. “