Marijuana and Constipation
by Anonymous

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 study.

I haven’t 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 soon.

After a few years, I returned to the states and more familiar surroundings, but found my digestion wasn’t 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 men’s room. Moreover, I am sure I was far less fun to be around while dealing with my discomfort. It’s 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, I’ve had several physicals at a local HMO which pronounced me healthy; no HIV, prostrate, diabetes, or other obvious problems. When I mention constipation and diet—perhaps I didn’t complain loud enough—but 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 can’t appreciate what I experience. It would be exaggerating to suggest my condition is life threatening, but it is certainly disabling. It’s a little like having a splinter stuck in your hand while you are trying to use the hand. I can’t 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 I’m 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, I’ve 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 wouldn’t 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 price—do not. Moreover, the act of delivering the drug via smoke allows for immediate, self-adjusting doses; I don’t have to guess how many pills to swallow and wait to see what happens. You can’t smoke laxatives. None-the-less, marijuana is 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. I’ve 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 don’t eat marijuana for the same reason I don’t eat laxatives; you can’t 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 anyway possible.

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