Should PMS qualify for medical marijuana? | Marijuana Issue | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Should PMS qualify for medical marijuana?

Periods can share symptoms with several of the conditions that qualify for a medical marijuana card. Yet, PMS and other syndromes related to periods do not qualify for a medical marijuana card in any of the 33 states with legalized medical marijuana

A few years ago, an article went viral featuring a statement from a doctor claiming that periods can be as painful as a heart attack. There is no research to verify the claim, and he was just one doctor in one article, but it was shared nonetheless because so many people felt validated by a professional acknowledging their pain.

In 2016, ResearchGate reported that there were five times as many research studies about erectile dysfunction as there were about PMS (premenstrual syndrome). They also reported that 40% of those with PMS, with 150 "commonly listed" symptoms, don't respond to treatments currently available. And this is just regular, run-of-the-mill PMS. More severe cases often don't get diagnosed until later in life because doctors don't believe their patient is having more than regular period symptoms, like PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), which causes extreme mood changes, or endometriosis, which causes severe physical pain.

The usual treatments for periods include ibuprofen, Midol, heating pads, the fetal position, a hot shower, and searching "yoga for your period" on YouTube. These can all work fine to relieve physical pains like cramps, backaches, and boob soreness, but those are just physical. What no one ever seems to want to discuss is that periods can manifest emotionally just as much as they can physically. Periods can make a person sad, anxious, irritable, depressed, and moody for 1-2 weeks every month, and no amount of Advil is going to help.


But what also goes undiscussed is that marijuana can actually help with both the physical and emotional toll of having a period, something people who both get periods and smoke weed know well. It can soothe cramps and other pains, as well as lift your mood.

Medical marijuana is already used to treat several conditions involving physical and/or mental pain. Periods can share symptoms with several of the conditions that qualify for a medical marijuana card. Yet, PMS and other syndromes related to periods do not qualify for a medical marijuana card in any of the 33 states with legalized medical marijuana. Only Alabama, which passed a medical marijuana bill through its senate in March, includes PMS (and menopause) on the list of qualifying conditions.

It might seem silly to argue that something as banal as a period deserves a medication that is also used for those with cancer or ALS. Then again, why doesn't something like period cramps, which range from mild discomfort to searing pain, count as chronic pain? Why doesn't monthly, recurring pain qualify as chronic? Why would acclaimed film star and EGOT winner Whoopi Goldberg launch a (now defunct) marijuana company specifically targeting menstrual cramps if it weren't an effective treatment?

If the medical community, and general population of Earth, took women's pain more seriously, then they might believe it and warrant more research. Studies show that the majority of people impacted by chronic pain are women, that women's physical pain is more likely to be misdiagnosed as a mental health problem, and that women are more likely than men to be prescribed sedatives instead of pain-relieving drugs.


I'm not a doctor, so I have no authority to say whether or not PMS is medically qualified to be on a list of ailments treated by medical marijuana. But I do know from personal experience, from the experience of friends and acquaintances, that marijuana helps alleviate both the physical and mental pain of being on your period. That for some, it's the only thing that works, and that it would help a lot of people to be able to access it legally.

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