In my previous article about sex, chronic pain, and cannabis, I focused on methods of incorporating cannabis into one’s sex life to maximize pain relieving benefits. This time, I wanted to chat with folks who are actually living with chronic pain to hear about their experiences with cannabis during sex in order to gain some insight and perspective.
I chose two sexuality educator colleagues who represent different aspects of life with chronic pain: first, Robin Wilson-Beattie, a disability activist and sexuality educator, and second, Alex Morgan, a pioneer in trans-inclusive sexuality education. Each lives with different aspects of chronic pain.
Alex Morgan (left) and Robin Wilson-Beale (right)
Ashley: How does chronic pain manifest in your day-to-day life and what impact does it have on your sex life?
Robin: As a person with a spinal cord injury, chronic pain is a daily part of my life. The damaged nerves mean that without medication and treatments, I'll feel like a complete wreck and everything hurts all of the time. It has a tremendous impact on my sex life — pain affects my desire levels, drive, and the positions and sexual activity that I feel up to engaging in.
Alex: I experience Crohn's disease, chronic migraines, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. The chronic pain often saps my energy levels, leaving me with not enough oomph to be at my best socially, which means I often have to decline invitations or am unable to issue them anywhere near as often as I'd like. That means that despite sex being highly important to me, I'm often not in a space to make it happen.
The inflammation and pain also add an element of physical challenge. With chronic pain, you get so used to blocking out sensation that it takes concentration and practice to fully experience pleasure in your body. This is something that comes up often with my coaching clients. Active Crohn's inflammation can also make receiving any kind of penetration, especially deep penetration, painful or uncomfortable, and arthritis pain can impact your ability to fuck using any part of your body: hips, back, hands, legs, jaw…
Ashley: Have you found any cannabis products or specific strains helpful in managing symptoms? How does it help?
Robin: Cannabis is essential in helping me manage my pain. I'm a weed refugee — I moved to California from Georgia, where medical cannabis is not legal. I vape CBD oil and have found smoking the flowers of the strain Girl Scout Cookies very helpful in managing pain and keeping it at bay, allowing me to perform daily activities. I always smoke before doing housework; otherwise, it hurts too bad to do much. Other prescription medication helped, but they had horrible side effects. I prefer cannabis.
Alex: I've been using the Foria Relief and Foria Explore (the main difference is the carrier oil) suppositories anally and vaginally to manage Crohn's flares and pelvic floor pain; it's made a huge difference. I get fast relief from the pain and inflammation, and given how much we use our abdominal muscles during various types of sex, having something targeted that I can use can mean the difference between being out of commission or being able to play.
I've recently started vaping a THC/CBD balance to reduce my overall daily pain levels and get my appetite back. I may switch to edibles so that I don't have to re-dose as often, but I'm starting to feel like a person again, rather than a collection of unhappy nerve endings.
Ashley: What impact do you see cannabis having on your sexual experiences (solo or partnered)?
Robin: I have enjoyed using the Foria cannabis infused oil on my clitoris for heightened sensation. With my spinal cord injury, I've had to apply extra pressure in order to get sensation when I stimulate it. Foria increases the intensity so I don't have to work quite as hard to obtain an orgasm when masturbating, and it allows my partner the opportunity to engage in stimulating me, too. I also find having an edible about 30 minutes before engaging in sex with my partner really makes things sexually exciting, and I am more aroused and responsive to the sensations that I can feel.
Alex: I appreciate that cannabis is helping me continue to use my body as well as my mind to help my clients find healing. It's helping me feel pain again, as strange as that sounds—I'm feeling it more often as an intrusion on a state of calm instead of as a variation in the status quo, and that means the world.
I’m so grateful to Alex and Robin for sharing their perspectives. These interviews represent only a small fraction of the lived experiences of folks living with chronic pain, and my hope is that this will catalyze a discussion about the value of cannabis in sexual health and wellness.
Is your experience of chronic pain and cannabis similar to Alex and Robin’s? Is it different? Let us know in the comments!
Alex (formerly Sabrina) Morgan is a sexuality educator and facilitator as well as a dating and relationship coach. Working directly with others’ sexuality since 2004 has given Alex a deft sensitivity to the needs of those exploring new facets of their selves and an understanding of the power of connection in both our public and private lives. A firm believer in continuing education for all adults exploring sex, gender, and relationships, Alex presents internationally on relationships, kink, sexuality, gender, and related policy issues. Alex is available for both individual and couples coaching in person at his Oakland office or anywhere via Skype. Keep up with Alex on Facebook and Twitter.
Robin Wilson-Beattie is the proprietor of sexAbled, teaching the world to embrace and explore your sexuality, regardless of ability. She is a member of the Association of American Sexual Educators, Counselors and Therapists, the Women of Color Sexual Health Network, and a graduate and member of the San Francisco Sexuality Information Training. After acquiring a physical disability, Robin began speaking on sexuality and disability topics and issues in 2008. She has given presentations and speeches at conferences, medical schools, and disability organizations. She is an Ambassador for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, and a nationally recognized self and systems disability advocate. Follow Robin on Twitter or like sexAbled on Facebook.
Do you have a sex, relationships, or intimacy dating question? Send it to email@example.com and I may address your request in a future article! (Don't worry, we'll keep your queries anonymous.)