Canada: Dalhousie Student Focuses On Women’s Health And Cannabis Use

Photo Credit: Justin Tang

Lots of research has been done on cannabis and dependence issues. But you won’t find many that focus on women and the drug that will be legalized in the coming months.

Dalhousie University student Kayla Joyce is working to fill that knowledge gap, specifically when it comes to mood and cannabis use behaviours across the menstrual cycle.

She said the research that has been done indicates that women are more susceptible to developing a dependence problem with cannabis.

“So it’s kind of critical that you look at this area of research especially with the legalization of cannabis coming up,” said Joyce, who completed her bachelor of science (honours) in psychology at Dalhousie last year and is doing the study as part of thesis work for her MSc in psychiatry under the supervision of Dr. Sherry Stewart.

Joyce is looking for women between the ages of 19 and 45. After a telephone chat to confirm they’re eligible to do the study, participants will come into the Dalhousie psychology lab to complete detailed questionnaires and to submit a saliva sample.

The participants must own a touchscreen phone with data and texting because over the next 32 days they’ll have to complete surveys on their phone sent by Joyce. It’s expected the survey work will take about nine hours over those 32 days.

“These would look at their cannabis use in real time and their mood related to cannabis across the menstrual cycle,” she said.

After the 32 days, the participants will return to the lab to provide a second saliva sample and complete debriefing surveys (and to get their $97.65 stipend if they’ve completed all of the surveys).

Joyce uses the menstrual cycle as a reference point because it’s known that women experience different moods at various phases of the cycle.

And it goes beyond the stereotypical image of the cranky woman on her period.

“It’s a lot more complex than that,” she said. “The menstrual cycle is a 28-day cycle so the period is a portion of that but there’s also a portion across the 28 days when a woman is in a more positive mood.”

Joyce is careful when asked about her goals and expectations in the study because she doesn’t want to bias potential participants.

But any kind of research into the menstrual cycle, substance dependence and mood can be helpful.

“Guidelines for cannabis (use) don’t really indicate women’s higher risk for dependence,” she said. “The research we’re doing could provide them with some type of educational tool that would tell them, OK, during this part of your cycle you might increase your cannabis use and you need to watch out for that.”

About 33 women have participated in the study since Joyce began her surveys in February. She hopes to survey about 80 by summer’s end because she must have her thesis completed by August 2019. If you’re interested, contact her at