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Scientists say that drug dependency in women is greatly underestimated

Posted October 23, 2019

Recreational use of cannabis is legalized in more and more countries. Many people celebrate it as a major achievement in liberation, while others are worried about the mental health of cannabis-dependant people. These are actually legitimate concerns and scientists say that our research on the topic is actually not that great.

Cannabis is becoming legal in a significant portion of the world, but the negative effects of this movement are still poorly understood. Image credit: Wikimedia / Public Domain

Scientists from the University of York reviewed a tonne of research on the topic of cannabis dependency and found that the research is actually wrongly skewed towards men. For example, scientists looked at the research and found that 12% of men who use cannabis compared with 5.5% of women are dependent on the drug. However, this data may not be that much representative of the reality.

The issue is, as scientists have found, that questions are geared towards men. There is a clear bias, due to the image of cannabis dependency more often than not carrying a male user’s figure. For example, a question in one of the surveys was ‘have you ever been intoxicated while driving a truck or operating machinery’, which is constructed thinking about men. Therefore, scientists think that figures presented above are simply not accurate enough, because the criteria for cannabis abuse seem to be lower for men than women. In fact, due to shortcomings in the research in this field, we have a limited understanding of the impact that cannabis dependence has on women.

Currently scientists are estimating that 1 in 10 cannabis users are at risk of developing cannabis dependence. These are quite important numbers in the light of the legalization wave. This means that we need new strategies how to help these people and if the problem in women is underestimated, we are going to put some people in a serious disadvantage. In fact, cannabis dependency for some people seem like a far-fetched idea or even a myth. However, some people, who are dependent on the drug, struggle to function normally without it and find themselves in a difficult situation. We need to understand these risks better.

Ian Hamilton, one of the authors of the study, said: “Although most people will not be harmed by cannabis, those that are likely to be harmed will not be drawn equally from the population, as with problems associated with other drugs, they will be  some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society. Problematic cannabis use like other drugs is just one disadvantage of many for these groups”.

Legalization of cannabis at this point seems to be inevitable. And maybe it should be legal – alcohol is legal already. But people need to be informed about potential risks to make a decision that is best for them.


Source: University of York

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