Research Discovers Doctors Give Women Less Support on Medical Cannabis

A recently published study of gender differences in medical cannabis use illustrates once again that the differences between women and men extend well beyond anatomy. The study’s findings conclude that women’s attitudes and approaches toward adopting a medical cannabis treatment program have distinct variations from how men take up medical marijuana products.

A more telling difference in gender attitudes is in the attitudes of primary care physicians toward women who seek advice about the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis treatments. From their initial research, to their physician’s appointment to get a medical marijuana card, to visiting a dispensary to purchase products, research suggests that men and women have very different experiences.

The “Gender Differences in Medical Cannabis Use” study was conducted July through August 2017 by researchers from Chicago, Illinois’s DePaul University Department of Health Sciences and the university’s College of Communication. The results were published in an October 2020 blog of Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers (a leading independent publisher of scientific, technical, and medical content).

Female Cannabis Users Receive Less Support

One major finding of the researchers is that, “Women are more likely to report lower levels of support from physicians for medical cannabis use.” Perhaps because women are accustomed to such treatment, women tended to be undaunted by lower support from primary physicians for medical cannabis treatments.

Unsupportive physicians did not stop the women in the study from accessing the therapeutic properties of medical marijuana products. Beyond being undaunted, the responding women were far more likely than men to completely discontinue previous physician-approved protocols. More so than men, women qualifying for medical cannabis cards trend towards relying solely upon medical cannabis regimens to treat the specific ailments that had motivated them to try medical marijuana products in the first place.

In layman’s terms, when it comes to knowing when to apply and stick with medical cannabis therapies, women know best.

The final item of the gender differences in medical cannabis use survey asked respondents to rate the level of physician support for medical cannabis therapies using a 4-point scale ranging from “very unsupportive” to “very supportive.”

The responding women listed a wide and serious spectrum of conditions being treated by medical cannabis, including:

Symptoms the study’s medical cannabis cardholders most often addressed with medical cannabis products include:

  • Pain—75.1 percent
  • Anxiety—65.4 percent
  • Inflammation—59.6 percent
  • Insomnia—56.2 percent

The study found “no significant gender-related differences in medical cannabis use in the treatment of depression, insomnia or muscle spasms.”

The analyzed data does indicate that women report a much higher rate of applying therapeutic cannabis products to treat pain, anxiety, inflammation, and nausea.

The Impact of Gender on Getting a Medical Marijuana Card

Deviations in medical cannabis use between men and women extend to behavioral differences related to the medical cannabis card itself. Women are more apt than men to acquire their qualifying documentation for a medical cannabis card from a medical cannabis practice, rather than through a primary care provider or specialist.

Judging by study respondents who reported cannabis use prior to obtaining a medical cannabis card, women are more inclined than male counterparts to increase their cannabis use after obtaining the medical cannabis card. Along with that greater increase in cannabis use, women are more likely to reduce or quit prescription medications through adopting a medical cannabis protocol.

Leafwell’s physicians are committed to providing an excellent quality of service to every patient they see on our telemedicine platform. Regardless of gender, we strive to deliver consistent support to everyone, at every stage of their medical marijuana journey.

Research Processes

All of the 367 women interviewed in the survey were over 18 years of age. They possessed valid Illinois medical cannabis cards and were currently using cannabis products for therapeutic properties. The study sample was drawn from licensed medical cannabis dispensaries across the state. Participants for the gender differences in medical cannabis study were recruited via flyers mailed to the licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and through online contact.

Participants in the medical cannabis survey were asked to reveal the specific medical conditions and symptoms that qualified them for an Illinois medical cannabis card and were being treated with medical cannabis products.

If a participant stated she had used cannabis prior to qualifying for an Illinois medical cannabis card, she was asked if her cannabis use had increased or decreased after becoming a medical cannabis cardholder.

The “Gender Differences in Medical Cannabis Use” concluded by ascertaining what portion of the respondents had reduced or discontinued prescription medications after adopting a medical cannabis treatment program.

The DePaul researchers acknowledged that gender-related differences in medical cannabis use have not been studied at any scale. Furthermore, the academics admitted that the Department of Health Sciences had no definitive data regarding whether or not front-line physicians supported patients exploring medical cannabis to alleviate symptoms caused by chronic conditions.

The DePaul University academics insist that more study needs to be made into the specific ways women use medical cannabis products to address ongoing symptoms from chronic conditions.

The researchers stress the fact that “a majority of women in this study successfully integrated medical cannabis into their chronic condition management and were able to reduce or discontinue prescription medication” with moderate-at-best support from primary care providers and specialists.

Once again, evidence indicates that women are leading the transition into wider adoption of medical cannabis protocols to ease the recurring symptoms of chronic medical conditions.

To see a physician today who treats every patient with compassion and respect, make an appointment with Leafwell.

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Written by
Allan MacDonell
Allan MacDonell

Allan MacDonell’s work has been featured in publications ranging from Dazed and Confused UK to the New York Times and Washington Post. He is the author of Prisoner of X, Punk Elegies and Now That I Am Gone, and was a founding editorial director at online outlets including Buzznet, TakePart and Kindland. MacDonell views teaming with Leafwell as an opportunity to encourage the emerging role of legal cannabis as a highly effective medical treatment.

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