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Women Are More Likely Than Men to Swap Pharmaceuticals for Pot

And they're doing it despite getting less support from doctors.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

According to a new study, women are more likely than men to switch to cannabis rather than pharmaceuticals to treat pain and other issues. The findings are even more remarkable, considering women also reported getting less support from physicians to try medical cannabis.

Jordan Siemens | Getty Images

Researchers from DePaul University and John Hopkins University worked on the study, publishing their findings in the Journal of Women’s Health. 

The study involved data from a survey of medical cannabis patients that asked them about their experiences using weed to treat various conditions. Part of the study focused on asking patients specifically about the impact of using medical cannabis on their pharmaceutical prescriptions.

According to survey data, women appeared more likely than men to use medical cannabis for symptoms that included pain, anxiety, inflammation, and nausea. They also were more likely to increase their use of cannabis once they qualified for medical cannabis in their state and decrease their use of pharmaceuticals.

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Less support from doctors

While women reported less use of pharmaceuticals after trying cannabis for pain and other symptoms, they also reported less support from physicians.

The researchers wrote: “The women in our sample reported marginally lower levels of support from their primary care provider and significantly less support from specialist physicians than the men in our sample.”

Support from physicians is, in general, all over the place, according to the researchers. For example, they reported that surveyed physicians in New York showed a high level of support for patients trying cannabis. Meanwhile, physicians in Colorado— the first state to legalize recreational marijuana— showed overall lower support.

Some of it falls on the patients, as well. In Canada, according to the study, patients with arthritis and HIV “exhibit greater likelihood of discussing medical cannabis with their physician than do patients with depression or anxiety.”

RELATED: New Report: What Women Want In Cannabis


Women are more likely to cut down on pharmaceuticals.

The researchers pointed out that there seemed to be a sweet spot for those who want to use cannabis to treat pain instead of opioids. They reported a significant increase in the likelihood of stopping prescription medication if the person is a woman using medical cannabis to treat multiple symptoms and who gets high levels of support for using medical cannabis from their primary care provider.

The researchers also pointed out this is not a surprise, given the fact that women have shown more willingness to try alternative medication than men in many areas. For example, female cancer patients are more interested in alternatives to treat issues such as pain, depression, and insomnia. 

In other areas of healthcare, women are more likely than men:

  • To have a general practitioner and contact their general practitioner and specialists
  • To obtain a higher number of outpatient consultations
  • To have higher utilization rates for physical, mental, and emergency health services 
  • To use preventative care more than men

In that context, the medical cannabis survey results seem to fit a pattern where women are simply more likely to reap the benefits of alternative medicines— and the healthcare system in the first place—than men. 

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