women and cannabis treatment for period pain

The Gender Pain Gap Series: Why Are Women More Hesitant to Reach for Medical Cannabis Treatment?

Medical cannabis is being used to treat a growing number of health conditions, including nausea, chronic pain, epilepsy, and more. Have you ever wondered how the gender pain gap affects women’s access to medical cannabis treatment? 

Find out why cannabis for males is more common, the potential cannabis treatment has for helping with untreated pain, and whether medical cannabis affects women in pain differently than it does men in pain.

The Medical Gender Gap Has Been Established, Now It’s Impacting Treatment Access

There’s no doubt that the gender pain gap exists, and we’ve previously discussed evidence documenting the pain gap. So, what implications does this have for women in pain who are seeking treatment, whether for extremely painful periods or other issues?

Access to Doctors and Regular Treatment

While women in pain may have the same access to doctors as men in pain, the reality is that the history of doctors dismissing women’s pain likely affects whether a woman will seek treatment or not. After all, if you’re worried that discomfort in your lower abdomen, ovarian pain, or other issues may not be taken seriously, you may not bother seeing a doctor unless it is an emergency.

Access to Medicinal Cannabis

Women are more likely to use medical cannabis as a treatment for a health-related condition, whereas cannabis use in males is more often recreational (Sexton et al., 2016). The number of women who report using medical cannabis treatment is growing (McConnell et al., 2014), making it important to understand differences in its effects on the body for different sexes.

Let’s Talk Science: Does Sex or Gender Impact the Effect of Cannabis?

With the legalization of cannabis across diffrent parts of the world, there has been increased interest in the effects it can have on the body and how factors like sex and gender come into play. Factors related to sex are those that affect how your body reacts to cannabis, including how it is metabolized and how it affects your brain. Gender-related factors refer to those that affect your likelihood for use and access to services.

Just as with the question ‘do women have a higher pain tolerance?’, there is not much known about how sex and gender influence the effects of cannabis. Some research indicates that physiological differences between men and women may play a role. One such difference is that female brain cells have fewer CB1 cannabinoid receptors, which are the part of the cell that mediates the response to cannabis (Cooper and Craft, 2018). 

Another potential difference between cannabis for males vs. females is due to the different distribution of muscle and fat tissue. Women tend to have a higher proportion of body fat than men. Since the active ingredients in medical cannabis dissolve in lipids and are stored in fat cells, this means that women may very well experience the effects of cannabis differently than men do. 

Why More Men Use Cannabis vs. Women

Most research around cannabis is based on self-report and looks only at prevalence. One study examining the prevalence of marijuana use from 2002 to 2014 found that although it increased for both men and women, there was a greater increase for men, indicating a widening in the gender gap (Carliner et al., 2017). The consistently higher rates of cannabis use among men may be explained by a variety of factors.


Stigma in the Workplace

Women in pain may avoid using cannabis treatment due to actual or perceived stigma, including in the workplace. Women are more likely to be employed in ‘helping’ professions such as health, teaching, or social services and may fear damaging their reputations.  

As if sexism and racism weren’t enough to deal with in the workplace, some women may be required to report medical cannabis use to their employer, which could be enough of a deterrent to using it when the worry is an employer with a prejudice against it.


Men are more likely to receive validation for intense pain from healthcare providers. When you tend to be believed, you are more comfortable seeking out solutions for your problems and advocating for yourself. When doctors downplay women’s health concerns and don’t provide adequate treatment for intense pain, it may make women less likely to seek out other forms of relief, including cannabis treatment.

AIMA Encourages Females to Access Cannabis

Closing the pain gap means that women in pain should have access to safe, effective relief from untreated pain, whether it’s mere period discomfort or an extremely painful period. Medical cannabis is a promising way to do so, and AIMA is committed to providing localized relief for period discomfort through our innovative OVY CBD suppositories. The work we do is rooted in our values of transparency, science, accountability, and an unwavering focus on all menstruators.

Do you have a story about your experience with cannabis treatment for period pain? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Email us and let’s raise awareness (#myperiodstory)!

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