WYV spoke to Dr. Wilson-King to learn more about her research in the field of medical marijuana and how she applies it to sexual health and wellness.
Disclaimer: At various points throughout this article, the interviewee uses gendered language. This is because most studies about sexual health exclusively refer to cisgender women and cisgender men and heterosexual relationships. Whenever possible, gender-neutral language is used.
With increasing advances being made and research dedicated to the use of cannabis and its health-related benefits, doctors and researchers are looking at how cannabis usage can help patients with sexual health-related issues. Dr. Genester Wilson-King is an obstetrician and gynecologist with over 25 years of clinical experience. She founded the Florida-based Victory Rejuvenation Center, a private holistic and preventive medicine practice that provides expertise in plant-based medicine, cannabis education, and hormone balancing.
Wear Your Voice interviewed Dr. Wilson-King to learn more about her research and work in the field of medical marijuana and how she applies it to sexual health and wellness, including her recent study around sexual health and cannabis approved by the Stanford University School of Medicine.
This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as an OB/GYN — what inspired you to study obstetrics and gynecology?
Dr. Wilson-King: My Obstetrical and Gynecological rotation was the last rotation of my third year of medical school. It was the perfect combination of surgery and diagnostic medicine, both of which I loved. I have also always wanted to take care of women. Women are special, I understand their complexities, and I can relate to almost everything.
We’re interested in how Victory Rejuvenation Center applies holistic healthcare with plant-based medicine, nutrition, cannabis, and exercise. Please tell us a bit about how cannabis became a part of your work and why we should be learning more about its benefits.
Dr. Wilson-King: Cannabis is a natural fit in a holistic practice. Most holistic practices revolve around nutrition, lifestyle modification, quality supplements after proper testing and assessment, hormone supplementation after proper assessment and evaluation, and plant-based medicine. We work with the body enhancing its natural abilities to heal.
[Our] goal is to help people bridge the gap from health to wellness. We seek to eliminate any barriers to regular communication between physician and patient. We think this is essential to achieve your health goals. We strive for an efficient, cost-effective way to create the individualized doctor-patient relationship physicians and patients desire.
Pillars of Wellness
- Freedom from Pain — Pain inhibits quality of life and prohibits wellness. Chronic pain affects around 20% of adults in the USA with 8% of them having high impact pain (CDC 2016). Pain can be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Alleviating suffering from pain can enable someone to live their life to their fullest capacity.
- Absence of stress — Stress, anxiety, and depression inhibit the ability to function and make decisions. Navigating stress is a function of the human condition. Wellness comes when we have the tools to address stress and move through life feeling comfortable in our own skin.
- Optimal Sleep — Overall health and wellbeing are highly associated with sleep quality. Most people don’t get enough rest. 35% of people in the US don’t get the recommended amount of sleep (7 hours per night) and around 20% of the population has a sleep disorder (CDC). Finding ways to optimize rest will positively influence the rest of your life.
- Healthy sex life — A healthy sexual life is essential for wellbeing. This is defined by your own terms and engaging in however much sexual activity is enough for you.
At Victory Rejuvenation Center, we believe that cannabis can affect all four Pillars and enable people to feel well. However, attaining this goal cannot come with cannabis alone. The path to wellness includes nutrition, physical activity, and spiritual health as well. Cannabis can be a huge part of wellness but is not more or less important than eating well, having a spiritual practice, and optimal wellbeing.
Given the devastating effects of the War on Drugs on Black communities across the U.S., how has it influenced and informed your work around cannabis research?
Dr. Wilson-King: The war on drugs has been a dismal failure unless you own a prison. We should focus on safety of use and treatment of addiction. Countries that have done this have made major headway into drug use and the health and well-being of its people. Portugal decriminalized the personal possession of all drugs in 2001. This means that, while it is no longer a criminal offense to possess drugs for personal use, it is still an administrative violation, punishable by penalties such as fines or community service. Since Portugal enacted drug decriminalization in 2001, the number of people voluntarily entering treatment has increased significantly, overdose deaths and HIV infections among people who use drugs have plummeted, incarceration for drug-related offenses has decreased, and rates of problematic and adolescent drug use has fallen.
As a woman of color, whenever I have an opportunity to speak to people of color or to speak out about the injustices we have faced, I do. Pot busts mean losing a job, public benefits, and wasting money that would be better spent on something else.
I want all people to be aware of this injustice and if I can encourage some to see it for what it is and put their money where their mouth is and do something, then I have accomplished my goal.
I became an expert witness in cannabis possession cases. 90% of my cases were dismissed after my opinion was rendered. Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough to make an impact but it impacted the few that were helped.
I am a Board member of the Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR), an organization that serves as a voice for physicians who believe that cannabis prohibition has failed and that the misuse of cannabis should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal one.
You are currently conducting a Stanford-backed survey into cannabis and its effects on sexual health — can you tell us a bit about that and your research’s importance?
Dr. Wilson-King: There is a lot of interest in cannabis and sex, sexual health and sexual dysfunction. This is a subject that has the least amount of research on it, and it was a natural extension to previous studies conducted by my partner.
In late 2018, I was approached by Dr. Michael Eisenberg, the head of the Department of Urology at Stanford Medical School. Dr. Eisenberg had published two studies, the first a survey via the National Survey of Family Growth on cannabis for sexual and reproductive health titled “Association Between Marijuana Use and Sexual Frequency in the United States: A Population-Based Study” published in 2017. The results showed male and female monthly, weekly and daily cannabis users had significantly higher sexual frequency compared with never users. It concluded there was a positive association between cannabis use and sexual frequency in men and women across all demographic groups. Although reassuring, the effects of cannabis use on sexual function warrant further study.
The second study by Dr. Eisenberg from 2018, titled “Association between use of marijuana and time to pregnancy in men and women: findings from the National Survey of Family Growth”, a retrospective review of cross-sectional survey data from respondents (aged 15-44 years) who participated in the first study. The study demonstrated that there was no statistically significant impact of cannabis use on the time to conceive a baby. This study suggests that neither cannabis use nor [the] frequency of use was associated with the time it took for a couple to become pregnant.
We decided that the next step was to delve into more specific information about the types of cannabis chemovars used, the frequency of use, the reason for use, the route of administration, AND to incorporate a known used tool to screen for sexual dysfunction in men and women and see if there are any associations to be made. It took us about 6-8 months to get it all together.
Both questionnaires have been developed as a self-reporting instrument for assessing the key dimensions of sexual function and are widely used in practice. The survey takes around 10 minutes to complete. The study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the Stanford University School of Medicine and is in compliance with the privacy protections provided by HIPAA. It is all anonymous.
The questions for women are based on the “Female Sexual Function Index” (FSFI). It provides scores on six domains including desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain. The male questionnaire is based on the “International Index of Erectile Function” (IIEF). The questions ask about erection problems and whether there has been an effect on their sex lives within the past four weeks. Participants are able to write in a category if they do not identify in the male/female binary. The survey also accommodates a variety of sexual orientations. We’d love the survey to get out to a diverse array of folks that may not have had the opportunity to be involved in research.