Male and female cannabis users are affected quite differently by consumption of the same cannabis. Historically scientists have attributed these distinctions to everything from culturally prescribed gender roles to fat tissue distribution and muscle mass. Published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience’s latest volume, “The Modulating Role of Sex and Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Hormones in Cannabinoid Sensitivity” reviews data derived from animal studies and concludes that sex differences in cannabis response are both cultural and biological and that sex hormones modulate human cannabinoid sensitivity.
Conducted by University of Cagliari researchers, the study examines the ways in which sex hormones like estradiol (aka estrogen), progesterone and testosterone influence both the formation and action of the human endocannabinoid system, endogenous brain cell networks that communicate using cannabinoids, cannabis’ primary chemical constituent. For example, the number of CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain fluctuates alongside estrogen levels. Estrogen also increases the quantity of endocannabinoid system-fortifying anandamide, and THC’s psychoactive effects are at their most intense when estrogen levels are at their highest.
As Psychology Today reports, a new study of teen and young adult cannabis use and neurocognitive function, “One Month of Cannabis Abstinence in Adolescents and Young Adults Is Associated With Improved Memory,” was just published in The Journal of Clinical Psychology. Conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School’s Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), this study broke new ground by tracking how one month of abstinence from cannabis impacted cognitive function in young people who regularly use cannabis. Eighty-eight study participants ranging from age 16 to 25 were randomly assigned to abstain from cannabis for four weeks to collect data on how extended cannabis abstinence can benefit cognition. Only abstaining participants exhibited improvements in memory from baseline to week one. The study yielded no abstinence-
Study results suggest that cannabis abstinence can offer meaningful improvement in verbal learning, verbal memory and better overall memory (in weeks one, two and three). The MGH research team recommends further research to determine whether cognitive improvement with cannabis abstinence can also be associated with academic and other functional outcomes.