More than a quarter of Northern California women who are between the ages of 46-64 and receive treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs are using cannabis to treat symptoms associated with menopause, according to findings presented at the North American Menopause Society's virtual meeting late last month. Another 10% said they plan to try cannabis in the future.
“These findings suggest that cannabis use for menopause symptom management is common, raising questions about the symptoms being targeted, and if this approach is helpful or harmful,” the study’s lead investigator, Carolyn J. Gibson, PhD, MPH, said. Dr. Gibson is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as a clinical researcher at the San Francisco VA Health Care System.
Dr. Gibson and her team found that of the 231 female veterans within the above age group, almost 28% reported using cannabis, which was close to parity with the women within the group who said they used over-the-counter drugs or supplements (29%) and other medications (31%) to treat menopause symptoms. All three were notably higher than the number of women who reported using hormone therapy (19%).
Two symptoms were more strongly associated with cannabis use: hot flashes and night sweats. In the two weeks prior to the survey, 67% of cannabis users reported hot flashes (compared to 50% of nonusers), and 68% reported night sweats (compared to 47% of nonusers).
The study was conducted between March 2019 and May 2020. Participants had a mean age of 55.95 years and were 74.1% white. One crucial limitation is that the study did not ask for specifics about the cannabis products being used by participants; there was no attempt to distinguish between cannabis products regardless of medium or cannabinoid content.
“In addition to talking to their peri- and postmenopausal patients about menopause symptoms and traditional treatment options, health care providers should consider asking about cannabis use and other approaches that patients may be trying outside of what has been prescribed or recommended,” Dr. Gibson said. “There is a lot that we do not know about the potential benefits and harms of cannabis use, particularly related to menopause and aging, but existing evidence raises concerns about its impact on cognition, cardiovascular health and mental health. Not asking may mean a missed opportunity to discuss risks and understand potential benefits.”
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