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More Women Are Using Marijuana to Ease Menopause

A new study finds women use cannabis to relieve hot flashes and night sweats.

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According to a new study, more than one in four women are turning to cannabis to relieve the symptoms of menopause. That percentage is higher than the number of women who use traditional types of menopause symptom management, such as hormone therapy.

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Researchers presented the study at the 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting of the North American Menopause Society, which surveyed 232 female U.S. veterans living in Northern California.

Of the women surveyed, twenty-seven percent already used cannabis to address menopausal symptoms. Another 10 percent expressed interest in using cannabis in the future. To put that in context, only 19 percent of the surveyed women expressed an interest in using hormone therapy.

The study also shows that people aren’t waiting for national legalization or even doctor’s orders to try cannabis as a medicine, especially seniors.

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Relieving symptoms

The women in the study had a mean age of almost 56. Slightly more than half reported “bothersome menopause symptoms,” according to the study. Those symptoms, and the percentage of women who reported them, included the following.

  • Hot flashes and night sweats (54%)
  • Insomnia (27%)
  • Genitourinary symptoms (69%)

Interest in using cannabis to treat menopause symptoms did not differ depending on demographics. Researchers reported that “women who did and did not report cannabis use for menopause symptom management did not differ by age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or mental health conditions.”

They also found that a higher percentage of women reported cannabis use if they experienced hot flashes and night sweats in the past two weeks.

The study did not ask women to specify the type of cannabis they used - that is, whether they smoked weed or used oil, supplements, edibles, or some other form of cannabis. 

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The mainstreaming of marijuana 

Carolyn Gibson, a psychologist and health services researcher with the San Francisco VA Health Care System, served as lead investigator on the study. She told U.S. News & World Report that the wave of legalization in states across the country leads  to more women trying weed for menopause relief.

"It's become mainstream, more widely available, more marketed potentially toward women during this period in their lives. That might be part of it," she said.

She also noted that while research remains inconclusive on the use of marijuana for menopause relief, the potential that it could provide relief might drive some women to try it. 

She said, "It may be that cannabis use can be relaxing and help with things like anxiety and sleep, and that would have an impact on sleeplessness and anxiety or mood changes during menopause.”

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