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Cannabis Can Help Treat Female Orgasmic Disorder, Study Finds As Ohio Officials Consider Adding It As Qualifying Condition



Ahead of a decision by Ohio officials on whether to add female orgasmic disorder (FOD) as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical marijuana program, a new study highlights the benefits that researchers say cannabis could offer people with the condition—including increased orgasm ease and satisfaction.

The 10-page study, published in the journal Sexual Medicine, draws on a 2022 survey of “sexually active women who used cannabis.” Among those who experienced challenges in achieving orgasm, more than 7 in 10 said cannabis use increased orgasm ease (71 percent) and frequency (72.9 percent), and two-thirds (67 percent) said it improved orgasm satisfaction.

“The results corroborate 50 years of anecdotal and learned speculation about cannabis helping women with FOD,” the paper says. “The research found that cannabis use increased orgasm frequency, eased orgasm difficulty, and improved orgasm satisfaction. At the same time, the results opened new areas of discussion.”

For example, results of the survey found that women with one or more mental health diagnoses who used cannabis before partnered sex had “a more positive orgasm response regardless of whether they have FOD,” which authors noted was “consistent with research finding that women with FOD experience high rates of mental health diagnoses, prescription drug use, or PTSD.”

“Cannabis-related treatment appears to provide benefit to women who have female orgasm difficulties or dysfunction.”

Anxiety was one area of significant overlap with FOD. “Women with anxiety disorders represented 44% (172/387) of women in this study,” the research found. “They were 3.5 times more likely to have FOD than nonanxious women.”

Another new finding was that using marijuana resulted in more orgasms for women who were survivors of sexual abuse.

“Sexual abuse survivors’ number 1 sexual complaint is orgasm difficulty,” the report says, “coupled with high rates of PTSD. This study revealed that 33% more women with sexual abuse histories reported FOD than women without FOD.”

THC in cannabis could be helping in those situations through by reducing “activity in the hippocampus and amygdala, the parts of the brain that store and react to traumatic memories,” authors wrote. “This activity may play a role in extinguishing traumatic memories and result in a more positive orgasm experience.”

A separate report from the same dataset, by the same authors—clinical sexologist Suzanne Mulvehill and Jordan Tishler, a doctor at the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists and the company inhaleMD—was published in March by the Journal of Sexual Medicine in a shorter, two-page form.

“Cannabis may be a treatment for women with difficulty achieving orgasm during partnered sex.”

The latest publication comes ahead of a board meeting on Wednesday of Ohio’s State Medical Board, where a medical marijuana committee has been considering adding FOD as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical cannabis program. Following a meeting of that committee, the full board may vote on the proposal, Mulvehill told Marijuana Moment in an email.

Mulvehill has been one of the leaders behind state-level efforts to recognize female orgasmic disorder as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana and submitted the Ohio petition last year that led to the forthcoming vote.

The state medical board announced in February that FOD, along with autism spectrum disorder, would move forward for expert review and public comment following submission of the petitions.

As for how marijuana might benefit people with FOD, the new Sexual Medicine report points to a few possible theories. Among them is dishabitation theory, the idea that cannabis “lessens the routine of habits, such as cognitive distraction, a known FOD cause.”

Neuroplasticity theory, meanwhile, “proposes that some women learn to orgasm while using cannabis, as seen in comments in this study and anecdotally.”

“Cannabis and endocannabinoids, the cannabinoids created by the human body, are increasingly recognized for their roles in neural development processes, including brain cell growth and neuroplasticity,” the study says.

“The frequency of cannabis use before partnered sex correlated with increased orgasm frequency for women who experienced difficulties achieving orgasm.”

The research found that cannabis use did not help all women orgasm. “Among survey respondents,” it says, “4% reported never having an orgasm, even though they used cannabis before partnered sex.”

Because of the survey methodology, the report says findings “may not be generalizable to women who rarely use or do not use cannabis before sex, women who have never had an orgasm, or women who do not have female genitalia.” Further, the study didn’t not the type or amount of cannabis used.

Amid the growing evidence, Ohio is one of at least four states that have considered adding FOD as a qualifying condition this year, along with Illinois, New Mexico and Connecticut.

In March, officials in Illinois voted in favor of the addition. In order to be formally enacted, the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board’s new recommendation will need to be approved by the state Department of Health.

New Mexico regulators are expected to hold a hearing on the issue this month, and Connecticut is planning to review a similar proposal, though a meeting date has not yet been set.

There’s growing evidence that marijuana can improve sexual function, regardless of sex or gender. 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, Mulvehill’s co-author, told Marijuana Moment in an interview earlier this year.

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

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 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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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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