Why Is The Latest Thing In Period Pain Relief Still So Disappointing?

For years, my periods have been not only heavy (like, Arctic ice melt-off heavy) but also marked by painful cramps. While a hit of Advil used to knock out the stabby sensations pretty quickly, they morphed over time to become more intense and less responsive to drugs. Or to yoga. Or to meditation. Or to complaining. Lately, the cramps are bad enough that I sometimes have trouble walking. So when I first heard about Foria Relief, described by the company as “a delivery system intended to maximize the muscle relaxing and pain relieving properties of cannabis without inducing a psychotropic ‘high’,” I was intrigued.

Though I’ve never combined the two, I'm no stranger to 420 relaxation and have tried every hardcore period intervention I can find. For example: Needles skeeve me out, but I’ve worked with two acupuncturists who specialize in lady issues (no results). I’m not a huge fan of pharmaceutical solutions, but, desperate, I’ve tried a range of birth control pills to lighten my periods (they either didn’t work, or I found myself in the 3% of women who suffer intolerable side effects). I’ve tried a Mirena IUD (it not only had no effect on my period, I bled it out five months after it was inserted). And several years ago, I had an endometrial ablation, a medical procedure that destroys the uterine lining to stem bleeding (it works for nearly all women; it did not work for me).

With Category 5 bleeding accompanied by hellacious cramps, Foria Relief — the treatment that was just what no doctor prescribed — seemed well worth a try. Perhaps it could, um, blunt the pain, which would at least make it easier to manage the bleeding. Alas, Foria joins my long list of failed remedies, though for an odd reason.

The product comes in little suppositories made of cocoa butter infused with THC and CBD, cannabinoids associated with muscle relaxation. The manufacturer recommends refrigerating the suppositories — what they call “servings,” as if your vagina might eat them — before you put them in, and then lying around for 20 minutes once you've dosed yourself, because the cocoa butter melts and might leak. How is something that forces you out of commission and then might dribble out of you an improvement on having your period?

Indeed, during my last period, each of the three times I had cramps and needed something to alleviate them, I didn’t have time to lie down for 20 minutes, nor was I able to risk leaking cocoa butter stains on my clothes or the furniture. A product that requires lying down with your feet up is okay maybe three times a year. Three times a month? It’s just not likely to happen — and that’s saying something, considering I work from home most of the time.

Here’s the thing: Menstrual cramps affect millions of women every single day. Literally millions, literally every day! Yet we haven’t seen any significant advancements in alleviating them since we discovered several decades ago that you may get relief from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen or Midol. I’m pleased that ganjapreneurs see an opportunity in this void. But a product that requires taking a chunk of time out of the day feels nearly Victorian, not like the wave of the future. (And don’t even get me started on the sorry-ass state of birth control innovation.)

I’m hopeful that as medical marijuana proliferates, people — ideally some of them women — will invent genuinely useful cannabis products. I’m also hopeful that some of those products will make periods more tolerable. (The race is on: Whoopi Goldberg just announced that she’s partnering with a California company to introduce a line of menstrual marijuana products). But for now, Foria Relief isn’t the answer for me or my cramps. I’ll stick with complaining.

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