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Illinois Panel Votes To Add Female Orgasmic Disorder As Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition



Officials in Illinois voted this week to add female orgasmic disorder as a new qualifying condition for medical marijuana, Known as FOD, the condition is also being weighed as a possible way for patients to qualify for medical cannabis in other states, including Ohio, New Mexico and Connecticut.

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

Gabriella Bova, an Illinois resident who submitted the petition to add FOD to the list of qualifying conditions, told the panel at a meeting on Monday that she’s “struggled with FOD for most of my adult life, and I became interested in cannabis as a treatment when nothing else worked for me.”

Another speaker, clinical sexologist Suzanne Mulvehill, founder of the Female Orgasm Research Institute (FORI), said she too was affected by FOD and went to four sex therapists to help resolve it before determining that “cannabis helped me overcome” it.

Mulvehill urged the board to approve the petition “so women can overcome FOD and the stigma and shame that accompany it,” according to an Illinois News Joint report on this week’s board meeting.

The body also voted to recommend adding endometriosis as a medical cannabis qualifying condition.

A panel in Ohio, meanwhile, took testimony on Wednesday about a proposal to FOD as a qualifying condition—a request made by FORI’s Mulvehill herself in a petition filed last year. The hearing of the state Medical Cannabis Board drew comments from psychologists, sex therapists and other health professionals.

“As a sexual assault survivor with a diagnosis of vaginismus and PTSD, I spent a significant portion of my sexually active adulthood struggling with pain with penetration and difficulty accessing orgasm due to my trauma,” wrote Ashley Manta, a California-based sex and relationship coach.

“Cannabis is medicine, and for the millions of women suffering from orgasmic difficulty/disorder, a beacon of hope in an otherwise dreary outlook for their intimate lives,” Manta continued. “Cannabis made such a profound difference in my life that I became a vocal (and internationally recognized) advocate for utilizing cannabis to improve sexual experiences, especially for women who have a history of trauma-related disorders.”

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

Earlier this month, Mulvehill and a doctor specializing in cannabis, Jordan Tishler, published a new study on the potential benefits of marijuana for female orgasm disorder, including increased orgasm frequency, improved satisfaction and greater ease achieving orgasm.

The survey of 387 participants—believed to be the first to look at marijuana and FOD—found that more than half (52 percent) said they experienced orgasm difficulty. For most of those people, cannabis seemed to help ease symptoms.

“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.

As commenters told officials in Illinois this week, the study also found that FOD is also associated with a number of other mental health conditions.

“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.”

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, according to Tishler, Mulvehill’s co-author and a vice president at the FORI.

“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 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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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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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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