Lack of evidence doesn’t deter Alberta women from using cannabis for menopause relief
A University of Alberta study suggests that a significant number of women in Alberta are turning to cannabis to alleviate symptoms of menopause, despite limited evidence supporting its efficacy.
Katherine Babyn, a second-year medical student who conducted the study as part of her master’s program in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said the findings highlight how women are seeking alternative ways to manage menopausal symptoms.
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The study gathered data from 1,485 women aged 35 and older living in Alberta through an online survey. Out of the respondents, approximately one-third (499 women) reported currently using cannabis, with 66 percent having used it at some point. Among current users, 75 percent indicated they use cannabis for medical purposes, primarily to improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and relieve muscle and joint aches.
But Babyn and co-author Nese Yuksel, a professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, found a lack of rigorous scientific research on the efficacy of cannabis for menopausal symptoms.
“There weren’t any randomized controlled trials that suggested cannabis could be an effective therapy option for menopause symptoms,” said Yuksel, who is also a member of the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute and the incoming president of the Canadian Menopause Society.
In her clinical work at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women’s menopause clinic, Yuksel observed that an increasing number of women were using cannabis to alleviate symptoms often associated with menopause or perimenopause.
“It’s not just the hot flashes and night sweats – it’s the sleeping issues, the mood issues, the brain fog, and the difficulty with concentration that a lot of women talk about,” Yuksel explained. “But they may not understand that these could be related to menopause.”
The researchers emphasized that natural options such as cannabis and other natural health products are not necessarily safer or more effective than pharmaceutical drugs, and rigorous clinical trials are necessary to establish their efficacy.
The management options for menopause in Canada include menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), non-hormonal prescription medications, lifestyle modifications, and complementary therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
“There’s still a lot of fear of MHT that’s a real issue,” Yuksel said, adding that the Canadian Menopause Society is working to increase awareness about the safety and efficacy of MHT in the right population.
The researchers are also developing an information pamphlet about cannabis in menopause, including current evidence and support.
“It is not that we are advocating for cannabis for menopause symptoms; we believe there should be more research in this area,” Yuksel concluded.
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