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Cannabis and Sex: Is Female Orgasmic Disorder a Qualifying Condition For Medical Cannabis?

Cannabis and Sex: Is Female Orgasmic Disorder a Qualifying Condition For Medical Cannabis?

A new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reports that the potential benefits of the plant include increased orgasm frequency, improved satisfaction and greater ease achieving in achieving orgasm.

Ben Adlin

23 March 2024 at 09:00:00

This report from Marijuana Moment, published on 12 March 2024.


As at least four U.S. states weigh whether to add female orgasmic disorder (FOD) as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, a newly published journal article by one of the organizers of that effort further reinforces the potential benefits offered by cannabis, including increased orgasm frequency, improved satisfaction and greater ease achieving orgasm.


Published this month in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the report is the product of a 2022 observational study by authors Suzanne Mulvehill, a clinical sexologist, and Jordan Tishler, a doctor at the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists and the company inhaleMD. While decades of sexuality research support the use of marijuana for sexual difficulties, the authors said, theirs is “the first study to look at FOD specifically, demonstrating significant benefit.”


The survey of 387 participants found that more than half (52 percent) said they experienced orgasm difficulty.


“Among respondents reporting orgasm difficulty, cannabis use before partnered sex increased orgasm frequency (72.8%), improved orgasm satisfaction (67%) or made orgasm easier (71%),” the study found.


“Fifty years of sexuality research support use of cannabis for sexual difficulties.”


Mulvehill and Tishler have helped drive medical marijuana advocacy around female orgasmic disorder/difficulty in some states now considering allowing the diagnosis as a qualifying condition under medical marijuana programs. Mulvehill is the founder of the Female Orgasm Research Institute, of which Tishler is a vice president.


“It’s a medical condition that deserves medical treatment,” Mulvehill told Marijuana Moment in an interview last month. “Women with FOD have more mental health issues, are on more pharmaceutical medication. They have more anxiety, depression, PTSD, more sexual abuse histories. It’s not just about pleasure, it’s about a human right.”


Their newly published research reflects those observations. “Women with FOD reported 24% more mental health issues, 52.6% more PTSD, 29% more depressive disorders, 13% more anxiety disorders, and 22% more prescription drug use than women without FOD,” it says. “Women with FOD were more likely to report sexual abuse history than women without FOD.”


In Illinois, members of the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board held an initial meeting Monday about the proposal to add FOD to the state’s list of qualifying conditions, while Ohio officials are set to hear public testimony on a similar plan on Wednesday following a petition Mulvehill submitted last year.


New Mexico regulators are also accepting public comment for a hearing on the issue set for May. Connecticut, too, is planning to review a proposal, according to the Female Orgasm Research Institute, though a meeting date has not yet been set.


Tishler told Marijuana Moment last month that advocates sometimes face an uphill battle in trying to draw attention to cannabis’s benefits for FOD.


“One amongst many complicating factors in this field is that it is two taboo subjects,” he said. “Americans don’t deal with cannabis very well, as we can see, and they also really don’t deal with sex very well.”


But in recent years, there have been a number of studies “that have really moved this field forward in terms of, you know, well done, reasonable-size studies that are quantitative. Now, the one piece that’s lacking—that Dr. Mulvehill and I are working on—is doing the gold standard, the randomized controlled trial. And we’re having some difficulty because of the nature of cannabis, etc., in terms of getting approved and funded.”


Regardless of sex or gender, there’s growing evidence that marijuana can improve sexual function. A study last year in the Journal of Cannabis Research found that more than 70 percent of surveyed adults said cannabis before sex increased desire and improved orgasms, while 62.5 percent said cannabis enhanced pleasure while masturbating.


Because past findings indicated women who have sex with men are typically less likely to orgasm than their partners, authors of that study said cannabis “can potentially close the orgasm in equality gap.”


A 2020 study in the journal Sexual Medicine, meanwhile, found that women who used cannabis more often had better sex.


Numerous online surveys have also reported positive associations between marijuana and sex. One study even found a connection between the passage of marijuana laws and increased sexual activity.


Yet another study, however, cautions that more marijuana doesn’t necessarily mean better sex. A literature review published in 2019 found that cannabis’s impact on libido may depend on dosage, with lower amounts of THC correlating with the highest levels of arousal and satisfaction. Most studies showed that marijuana has a positive effect on women’s sexual function, the study found, but too much THC can actually backfire.


“Several studies have evaluated the effects of marijuana on libido, and it seems that changes in desire may be dose dependent,” the review’s authors wrote. “Studies support that lower doses improve desire but higher doses either lower desire or do not affect desire at all.”


Part of what cannabis appears to do to improve orgasms is interact with and disrupt the brain’s default mode network, Tishler said. “For many of these women, who cannot or do not have an orgasm, there’s some complex interplay between the frontal lobe—which is kind of the ‘should have, would have, could have [part of the brain]’—and then the limbic system, which is the ’emotional, fear, bad memories, anger,’ those sorts of things.”


“That’s all moderated through the default mode network,” he continued.


Modulating the default mode network is also central to many psychedelic-assisted therapies. And some research has indicated that those substances, too, may improve sexual pleasure and function.


A paper earlier this year in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, which purported to be the the first scientific study to formally explore the effects of psychedelics on sexual functioning, found that drugs such as psilocybin mushrooms and LSD could have beneficial effects on sexual functioning even months after use.


“On the surface, this type of research may seem ‘quirky,’” one of the authors of that study said, “but the psychological aspects of sexual function—including how we think about our own bodies, our attraction to our partners, and our ability to connect to people intimately—are all important to psychological wellbeing in sexually active adults.”

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