"Don't you know that it's different for girls?"
Where are you on your cannabis journey? New? Pro? Off it because you went too far one night and couldn't claw your way out of the rabbit hole? (wait, that was me!) I eventually got back into cannabis after that wild night back in 2012, but it took a full 6 months.
Want to know the most surprising thing about that night? I had the same amount of cannabis as my husband and he was basically intoxicated but totally not out of his mind. The truth is, if I consume too much cannabis, I get anxious, paranoid, have heart palpitations and feel lousy inside. Anxiety is the opposite of what I am trying to feel when I consume cannabis. Why does the same strain or amount effect women so much differently?
"According to a new study from John Hopkins University, women may be more likely than men to get anxiety-related symptoms from occasional cannabis use." Forbes
Full disclosure, I eventually made it back from the depths of the cannabis pain cave. I can help you get back on the horse if you so desire. Let's start fresh....together. I am here for you. We can do this. You don't have to go overboard, get too high, be scared or worse, forgo cannabis because you had one bad night in Reno! Let's not be hungover. There is a better way.
Do you know what circumstances will effect how you feel when using cannabis? In my experience everything from alcohol, food, where I am in my menstrual cycle, stress levels, mental state, location-location-location, strain type and exhaustion level will all come into play. For many women, birth control, alcohol and basic daily stress can play major roles in the cannabis experience.
While most research has focused on the therapeutic effects of cannabis, one of the big questions yet to be fully answered is how marijuana affects men versus women. There is so much we still don't know. Here's what we do know...
Because estrogen regulates the breakdown of endocannabinoids, and because women’s estrogen levels fluctuate throughout the month, women’s reactions to ingesting marijuana vary widely based on their menstrual cycle. When estrogen levels are at their peak during ovulation, for example, women tend to become more sensitive to THC. During menstruation, when estrogen levels are at their lowest, women’s bodies break down endocannabinoids more freely and don’t react as strongly to THC.
Brain Receptors: The chemicals in cannabis work by binding to unique receptors in the brain. The number, density and function of these receptors change from person to person, eliciting different effects for each cannabis user. One thing that affects the prevalence of these receptors is the presence and quantity of certain sex hormones. Because the amount of each type of sex hormone differs between men and women, they have different amounts of receptors, affecting the way they react to marijuana.
Sex Hormones: Sex hormones don’t just affect the number of brain receptors—certain hormones have a direct effect on the chemicals in cannabis. Estrogen is the most notable of these hormones because it regulates the production of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), a chemical that degrades the endocannabinoid anandamide, which is the human body’s natural version of THC. When estrogen levels are decreased, FAAH is less regulated and can freely degrade anandamide, resulting in greater anxiety and depression and a reduced response to THC.
Metabolic Differences: While this is an area that is still being researched, preclinical studies have suggested that men and women metabolize marijuana chemicals differently. It is thought that this has to do mostly with sex hormones, but research is inconclusive.
This is all great information, but how do we apply it IRL? If you are reading this, we are friends, and as your girlfriend, I am giving you my most solid tips to help keep you in the happy zone on your cannabis journey.
1. I take HALF of what my husband consumes. (srsly)
Since we often enjoy cannabis as a couple, it is important for me to remind myself that he weight more than me and that there is no competition with cannabis (I am competitive by nature).
2. I don't take edibles on an empty stomach. #makeahealthysnack
3. I drink sparkling, cold, refreshing water.
4. I set the scene for the journey. Edibles are a marathon, not a sprint. Before I dive in to a 4 hour commitment, I make sure the house is tidy, my mind is in order mentally (not too stressed from the day) and that I light a candle and play fun or chill music to ensure the mood is in place. It seems simple, but the right candle and a little flame can change your space, and that will instantly change your mindset.
5. Start slow and go low on your dosing. You can always take more, you can never take less.
6. Phone a friend. If things happen to go south, call your girlfriend. Having a pack with another likeminded woman who you can ring up any time of day or night is such a beautiful safety net! Use it!!
I am always on the hunt for more information about how cannabis effects women and I am tracking my experiences with a journal and a calendar linked to my menstrual cycle and the moon. Woo-woo, I know. But it's all related.