Men are 4 times more likely than women to be diagnosed with ‘cannabis psychosis’

The marked gender difference in rates of cannabis psychosis is puzzling. Particularly as only men are only twice as likely as women to use cannabis. So why might this be? It could be the result of a bias in treatment services which tend to be dominated by male patients. This could have two consequences; first, it might make staff in those services more vigilant for problems with cannabis and as there are more men being treated anyway this distorts the number who are diagnosed and treated for cannabis psychosis. And secondly, women might find it hard to access treatment which they rightly perceive as male dominated. This could be a barrier woman when they are likely to be feeling at their most vulnerable.

It is also likely that women with children will avoid seeking specialist treatment when they develop mental health problems as a result of cannabis use out of fear that their children could be taken into care, particularly if they have no family support. Likewise services might be treating such women differently knowing that they have a duty to safeguard these children. Consequently health and social care services might be offering the least invasive service they can to enhance continued contact between mother and child.

Some research has suggested the hormone oestrogen may have a protective effect for women in relation to psychosis. This might be a factor that in part explains the gender variation for cannabis psychosis.

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