More US women may be using marijuana to manage menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats: Study
About 27 percent of female veterans, who participated in the analysis, reported using cannabis for managing their symptoms
Laws and regulations prohibiting cannabis or marijuana use have relaxed dramatically over the past decade in the US, with medical or recreational use now legalized in many states. Mainstream use of marijuana for the management of chronic health conditions and mood symptoms has been increasingly reported over this period according to experts. A growing number of women are also either using cannabis or want to use it for the management of bothersome menopause symptoms, say researchers in a new study. About 27 percent of the female veterans, who participated in the analysis, said they currently use cannabis to manage their symptoms or have done so in the past. Cannabis for menopause symptom management was most often used in women reporting hot flashes and night sweats. Such use did not differ by age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or mental health conditions.
“These findings suggest that cannabis use to manage menopause symptoms may be relatively common. However, we do not know whether cannabis use is safe or effective for menopause symptom management or whether women are discussing these decisions with their healthcare providers, particularly in the Veterans Affairs (VA), where cannabis is considered an illegal substance under federal guidelines. This information is important for healthcare providers, and more research in this area is needed,” explains lead author of the study, Dr Carolyn Gibson, a psychologist and health services researcher at San Francisco VA Health Care System.
The authors examined data from the Midlife Women Veterans Health Survey, an observational study of women Veterans aged 45-64 enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare in Northern California. Data were collected between March 2019-May 2020. Participants reported previous or current methods of menopause symptom management, including cannabis use in any form, as well as current health, mental health, and menopause symptoms in structured-item questionnaires. “Although little research has been conducted in this area, anecdotal evidence suggests a high rate of interest in use for menopause symptom management among midlife and older women. We examined patterns of self-reported cannabis use for menopause symptom management in a sample of midlife women Veterans,” writes the team, which also includes experts from the University of California, San Francisco.
In this sample of 232 midlife women veterans (mean age 55.95 years), over half reported current bothersome menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats (54%), insomnia (27%), and genitourinary symptoms (69%).
“Use of cannabis for menopause symptom management was common in this sample midlife women veterans in Northern California. Current or ever use of cannabis for menopause symptom management was reported by 27% of all participants, while an additional 10% expressed interest in future use. In contrast, only 19% reported traditional forms of menopause symptom management, including menopausal hormone therapy,” state the findings presented during the 2020 virtual annual meeting of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). It adds, “In bivariate analyses, women who did and did not report cannabis use for menopause symptom management did not differ by age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or mental health conditions. Cannabis use was more commonly reported among women reporting hot flashes (67% versus 50%) and night sweats (68% versus 47%) in the past two weeks, with no differences observed for other menopause symptoms.”
According to the investigators, the study raises questions about the generalizability of these findings in other regions with different legal and cultural attitudes toward cannabis use, the degree to which women disclose cannabis use to healthcare providers when discussing menopause management, and the specific symptoms targeted by women using cannabis for menopause symptom management. These findings also highlight the importance of understanding the potential risks, benefits, and effectiveness of cannabis for this indication, they add.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director, said that the study highlights “a somewhat alarming trend and the need for more research relative to the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use for the management of bothersome menopause symptoms.”
Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), a non-profit organization based in Washington, said that while the therapeutic use of cannabis by veterans is not altogether uncommon, this study is among the first to highlight veterans’ use of marijuana for this particular condition. “Given cannabis’ relatively high rate of use among the women in this cohort, scientists and others would be well-advised to further explore its safety, efficacy, and prevalence among women experiencing menopause,” said Armentano in a statement.