Menopause and perimenopause almost seem like a dirty word in Ireland. For years women rarely if ever spoke about the symptoms associated with it. In May this year Liveline lit up with women’s stories of menopause and drew national attention to an issue that affects 50% of the Irish population at some point in their lives. The stories told at the time cited mood swings, aggression, forgetfulness, fatigue, and the infamous hot flushes. Although several treatment options such as hormone therapy have proven effective in managing symptoms, not all women are able or willing to use these options.
A new study has found that many women in the US are turning to cannabis to ease the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause. This new study involved over 250 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women recruited through targeted ads regarding women’s health and cannabis. Results of the study suggest that many women (86%) currently use cannabis as an adjunct treatment for menopause-related symptoms via a variety of different modes of use, with the most common being smoking (84.3%) and edibles (78.3%). The majority of women surveyed (92%) reported at least one-lifetime use of cannabis, while 83% reported a history of regular cannabis use. What this tells us is that people already consuming cannabis are aware of the benefits it may have in treating symptoms of menopause. The most frequently reported indications for medical cannabis use were menopause-related sleep disturbances and mood/anxiety.
Compared with postmenopausal participants, perimenopausal participants reported significantly worse menopause-related symptomatology, including more anxiety and hot flashes. Perimenopausal women were also more likely to report a higher incidence of depression and anxiety, as well as increased use of medical cannabis to treat these symptoms.
Dr Lauren Streicher, medical director of Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause has been writing a series of books about the symptoms of menopause, in one book “Hot Flash Hell” she explains how to use cannabis as a treatment for hot flashes in one chapter. Speaking to Amy* she told us how she uses cannabis to treat her symptoms.Amy* who has 3 young children started showing perimenopause symptoms in her mid-thirties. Having tried hormonal treatments she felt like they were not working for her and instead of improving her quality of life, she says it made it more difficult to function on a daily basis with her young children. Having consumed cannabis before and aware of its medicinal properties she started researching using cannabis to help treat her menopausal symptoms.
Amy* says" If I consume cannabis at night I sleep like a baby rather than being awake all night, and it helps to lower my body temperature during the night and day so I can avoid the worst of the hot flashes. I also use CBD products such as oil and add it to my food, which I find really helps balance my mood swings during the day. Thankfully my GP is supportive of cannabis as medicine so when I informed him I was using it to help with the symptoms of menopause he was quite supportive, although he had no information to offer me, leaving me alone on this journey. To his credit every visit he asks how my progress is and if I have any side effects or improvements. "
Dr Stephanie Faubion from the North American Menopause Society said in a press release “This study suggests that medical cannabis use may be common in midlife women experiencing menopause-related symptoms. Given the lack of clinical trial data on the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis for the management of menopause symptoms, more research is needed before this treatment can be recommended in clinical practice. Healthcare professionals should query their patients about the use of medical cannabis for menopause symptoms and provide evidence-based recommendations for symptom management,”
If you are taking cannabis to treat symptoms of menopause you should notify your doctor as it can interact with certain medications.
*Amy's name has been changed to hide her identity upon request.