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CBD Mental Health Research Has a Gender Gap– Here’s Why That Matters

With a year like 2020, it's little wonder that people are turning to cannabidiol (CBD), known for its calming effects, at higher rates to help with their anxiety surrounding Covid-19. Thirty-nine percent of CBD users recently reported that they were using CBD products more as a result of the pandemic, according to a survey from the Brightfield Group. When the consumer marketing agency, which focuses on the Cannabis and CBD industries, polled 5,000 people last June, it found that 42 percent listed anxiety as their primary reason for using CBD, despite a lack of CBD mental health research.

Given that CBD, a compound commonly extracted from cannabis or hemp plants, is able to provide a mild body high—without the mind-altering effects of THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis)—it makes sense that people may be reaching for it as a means of easing anxious feelings. And while researchers we've spoken to note that there are no known negative side-effects to using CBD for this purpose, they still don't know a whole lot about how CBD oil works for anxiety. "There is very little data from rigorous scientific research on the therapeutic effects of CBD," J. H. Atkinson, MD, of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego, previously told Well+Good.

Almost all of the existing studies on CBD and mental health were conducted using only male subjects.

What they do know is that, while early research shows that CBD could be beneficial for treating anxiety, almost all of the existing studies on CBD and mental health were conducted using only male subjects. This was one of the findings of a new research synthesis on the use of CBD for treating anxiety published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

This is a problem for *many* reasons, starting with the fact that women have historically been left out of clinical research, and equal representation in studies is still lacking, even now. Another reason it's an issue is because mental health conditions, including anxiety, can present differently in women due to distinctions in brain chemistry and hormones, among other societal and cultural dissimilarities.

So, to get a better understanding of what's going on with CBD research for mental health and how gender plays a role. I talked to an author of the research synthesis, Patricia Di Ciano, PhD, an assistant professor of Pharmacology and Toxicilogy at the Univeristy of Toronto, as well as Ziva Cooper, PhD, director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative and associate professor at the Jane & Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior.

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