The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55, and usually lasts around 7 years, but can be as long as 14 years. Perimenopause and menopause can cause a number of symptoms that greatly affect quality of life. During this time, hormones go haywire, temperature regulation becomes more difficult, and mental clarity vanishes. Some symptoms may cause discomfort and others may leave women feeling emotionally unstable. As a result, an increasing number of women are turning to cannabis to alleviate menopause-related symptoms, according to new survey data.
86% of participants reported presently using cannabis, and 78% endorsed the use of medical cannabis for symptoms associated with menopause, e.g. hot flashes, sleep disturbance, mood changes and vaginal dryness or pain. The top related symptoms women reported treating with cannabis in the survey were sleep disturbance and mood or anxiety issues. A majority of the participants smoked cannabis for their symptom relief (84%), while 78% reported they used edibles to treat ailments.
Previous surveys, such as those here and here, have estimated that one-third of women consume cannabis for purposes of managing menopause-related symptoms.
Some effects of perimenopause (e.g. depression, anxiety, mood swings, lower libido, and difficulty sleeping) may happen in response to lower levels of estrogen. Estrogen is an important part of the endocannabinoid system because it regulates fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and is responsible for breaking down certain endocannabinoids. This is why extra doses of cannabinoids, such as those received when using medical cannabis, may help with common menopause symptoms.
A primary cause for sleep disturbance during the menopausal transition is hot flashes, and one of the biggest triggers of hot flashes is anxiety. “When a woman finds herself in a high-stress moment, she may start to sweat and flash,” says Dr. Melanie Bone, Ob-Gyn. “This is often ameliorated with cannabis. I find that higher-CBD products are best to reduce anxiety, but years of practicing have taught me that every patient is unique and there are women who respond best to higher doses of THC to help mitigate anxiety.”
While cannabis is often used to treat anxiety across a number of ages, there is a specific science behind the benefits among menopausal women. Our amygdala is the region of the brain considered the integrative center for emotions, behavior, and motivation. During menopause, these are especially heightened, and cannabis helps to suppress the negative responses, causing less anxiety and depression.
Products like cannabis-powered vaginal suppositories and topicals have also been mentioned by women to provide soothing relief for issues of vulvar dryness. Why choose a suppository? Unlike edibles, which go through the digestive system and become metabolized before entering the bloodstream, suppositories surpass the digestive tract and liver, and solely depend on body temperature in order to be absorbed by the surrounding skin. In addition, the female reproductive system has its own cannabinoid receptors that can interact with the suppositories. This eliminates the variables of body weight, metabolism speeds, and stomach contents that come into consideration with edibles.
There are also other factors to consider, such as whether to treat symptoms with THC or CBD. THC can act as a sedative for some, while others report stimulating effects, particularly for those who are new cannabis users or take greater amounts. In these instances, the THC could cause further sleep disruption, whereas CBD, especially taken in larger doses, may induce sleepiness.
Presently, there have been no peer-reviewed clinical studies of women in menopause using cannabis and so there is currently no one-size-fits-all approach, or can it be considered a proven therapy for menopause. This goes the same for replacing Hormone Therapy completely with cannabis to treat menopause symptoms. Some doctors report a dose reduction in hormones in a lot of women who use cannabinoids, and others urge cannabis be used in conjunction with hormones for best results.
As with any cannabis treatment, effective dosing varies widely by individual and condition. Our specialists at Realm of Caring are here to help you find a product and dose that works for each of us! If you would like to reach out to our Care Team (719-347-5400 option 1), they would be so happy to help you individualize your therapy and find a product that is right for you.