Marijuana and Constipation
We have heard of only one other person who uses
cannabis to relieve constipation. We will be most interested in learning more about this
use. But at present there is little more that we can do but present this
interesting clinical vignette.
I am a
single, 43 year old, college educated, self-employed Caucasian male. With the exception of
a few years I spent abroad and one other year when I was just too busy, I have used
marijuana regularly since I was 14. While my use of marijuana during my adult life has
been very regular, often daily, I have managed to function as well as most individuals in
similar situations with similar resources. I usually smoked marijuana in the
evening before bed and never used marijuana when I was working or trying to
I havent been nominated for a Nobel Prize, but few who
know me would characterize me as a low-life either. I worked my way through college and
two years of graduate school, have learned to communicate in two Asian languages, earned a
black belt (in Japan), and worked in several of the best known banks (Sumitomo),
brokerages (Merrill Lynch) and computer companies (IBM) in the U.S. and abroad.
I currently own and manage my own small business from my home.
For most of my life, my marijuana consumption has
been purely recreational.
In my early 30s, I spent several years living, working and
studying in Asia. While the experiences were very rewarding, they were not without stress.
I worked very hard, slept poorly and ate foods which were largely unfamiliar to me. One of
the seeming results of this lifestyle was very poor digestion. I began to experience
irregularity, constipation and occasional diarrhea. I didn’t have the time
or money to pursue medical treatment and wasn’t sure what I was experiencing
was so unusual, and so just endured, hoping that things would get better
After a few years, I returned to the states and more familiar
surroundings, but found my digestion wasnt any better. In fact it was getting
noticeably worse. I was experiencing real intestinal discomfort almost every morning,
often persisting through out the day. I felt like I desperately wanted to empty my bowels,
but even with time and considerable effort, I could not. I tried so hard, I
gave myself a serious case of hemorrhoids, but couldn’t relieve myself.
I tried numerous laxatives but found them to be either
ineffective or too effective with no way to judge how much was needed or when.
I also began to eat pure whole-wheat fibre, one teaspoonful with a glass of
water, but this did little, if only irritate my bowels.
These problems began to interfere with my work as I found it
harder to get out of the house in the morning and found myself making more and more
frequent and longer trips to the mens room. Moreover, I am sure I was far less fun
to be around while dealing with my discomfort. Its hard to be a wonderful nice
smiling person when you are so uncomfortable. A good attitude can go right
to hell very quickly.
But while at home on weekends, I began to notice that if I
smoked marijuana while feeling constipated, my bowels would relax and perhaps 3 out of 4
times, I would be able to relieve myself. I began to "self-medicate" without
realizing that is what I was doing. After all, I had been smoking marijuana for many years
and continued to regard my use as recreational. But the connection became more obvious
when I smoked marijuana in the mornings. For whatever reason, if I smoked
one or two hits and walked to the bathroom feeling constipated, I could
usually relieve myself within a minute or two and get on with my day.
This was truly a blessing. Marijuana worked to produce an
immediate result, usually in less than two minutes. Although I have never discussed my
marijuana use with a physician, in the past 5 or 6 years, Ive had several physicals
at a local HMO which pronounced me healthy; no HIV, prostrate, diabetes, or other obvious
problems. When I mention constipation and dietperhaps I didnt complain loud
enoughbut the doctors seemed to suggest my diet was normal, if not adequate, and
discomfort was also fairly normal. Part of getting old. It is hard to explain how much
discomfort my intestinal disorder causes. Everyone has experienced occasional discomfort,
so when I mention mine, most people cant appreciate what I experience. It would be
exaggerating to suggest my condition is life threatening, but it is certainly disabling.
Its a little like having a splinter stuck in your hand while you are trying to use
the hand. I cant focus on anything for more than a moment without thinking about how
I feel. I began to turn over so much in bed at night, my (then, now former) significant
other slept on the couch. I am a relatively intelligent man who needs to use his mind to
earn a living, but when Im unable to concentrate for more than a few moments at a
time, very little gets done. (Example; having to read the same paragraph three or four
times because each time, before a comprehensive thought is constructed, my mind is
distracted by the discomfort of my intestinal disorder. When my attention returns to my
reading, Ive lost my place and need to begin again.) While I have never lost a job
because of my condition, I have left several positions and declined others knowing that,
although I could do the work, I simply wouldnt be able to keep up and pull my
weight. As a result, I am today self-employed and would find outside full time employment
very difficult. It would be inappropriate to compare the cost of marijuana to conventional
laxatives because, in my case, marijuana works while conventional laxatives at any
pricedo not. Moreover, the act of delivering the drug via smoke allows for
immediate, self-adjusting doses; I dont have to guess how many pills to swallow and
wait to see what happens. You cant smoke laxatives. None-the-less,
expensive. Far too expensive. I smoke individual bong hits (of California Sinsemilla
daily). Joints are fine for groups of people but are wasteful for an individual who only
needs one or two hits. Ive also experimented with vaporizers with mixed results.
Vaporizers seem to function well to get high, but I do not experience the same intestinal
relief afterward. (This suggests to me that something other than the vaporized
psychoactive particles is responsible for relieving my bowels.) I dont eat
for the same reason I dont eat laxatives; you cant judge the required dose or
when, or even if, it will take effect. Might be fun, but would almost certainly be more
wasteful than a bong hit. I smoke in my home, almost always alone. I do not transport,
sell, or otherwise advocate. And while I live in a state that theoretically
might give legal sanction to my use, I have every reason to doubt any
government involvement in this area.
At this time, I have never discussed my use of
marijuana with a
licensed health professional and as long as there is a federal threat to revoke the
license of any physician who suggests marijuana use, I can see little value in doing so.
My very limited funds are better spent on self-medication that I know works, than for
advice a physician is prohibited from giving. At this time, I would prefer to remain
anonymous. But things are changing, and if you are interested, check with me again before
you publish. I admire your work very much and would like to be helpful in