As more and more states legalize cannabis for medicinal and/or recreational use, there’s a rising interest in how marijuana affects men’s sexual health. The truth may lie somewhere between the lofty claims made by some men who use weed and the more cautious reports from a few research studies.
In addition to the impact of marijuana on erectile function, there are also questions about how occasional or chronic use may affect fertility. Let’s begin with erectile function.
Marijuana and erectile function
A few small studies have suggested cannabis use can put a damper on erectile function. However, one of the most recent studies of the impact of cannabis on erectile function conducted in Australia did not come to that conclusion.
The 92-study meta-analysis looked at the impact of six lifestyle choices (cigarette smoking, cannabis use, alcohol use, diet, caffeine, and physical activity) on erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and female sexual dysfunction.
Although there was compelling evidence that alcohol, physical activity, and cigarettes were related to sexual dysfunction, the experts could not find sufficient evidence for cannabis use.
It is possible, however, that use of both marijuana and tobacco may increase a man’s risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction. Tobacco restricts blood flow to arteries and veins, while the cannabinoid receptors in the smooth muscle tissue of the penis may respond to the THC and cause penile dysfunction. This is theoretical, however, and has not been proven.
Despite interest in the topic of marijuana and erectile dysfunction, there is very little research in humans. It is believed this will change as the availability and acceptance of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use increases.
Marijuana and male fertility
For young men who may want to start a family, use of marijuana can take on a different meaning. In a 2019 review, investigators looked at data from studies that examined the impact of cannabis on male fertility.
Research supports the idea that use of marijuana can have a significant impact on male fertility. In short, cannabis use can reduce sperm count and concentration, lower sperm motility and viability, inhibit the ability of the sperm to fertilize eggs, and induce abnormalities in sperm shape and size. All of these factors can have a negative impact on fertility.
In addition, cannabis in animal models has been shown to reduce libido and sexual function and cause testicular atrophy, although these results have not been replicated in human studies. Thus far there is inconclusive evidence that marijuana use affects testosterone levels or lowers levels of luteinizing hormone, which is needed to produce testosterone and sperm.
These findings suggest cannabis has a negative impact on male fertility. However, further research is needed in humans to validate animal findings and further explore the range of impact of marijuana on male sexual health.
Other effects of marijuana on sexual health
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, marijuana use can cause drowsiness and slowed reaction times, which may manifest as lower libido. An Australian study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine noted that daily use of cannabis was associated with men’s difficulty in reaching orgasm.
How marijuana affects men’s sexual health is still a study in progress. While it appears to have a detrimental effect on sperm and male fertility, the impact on erectile function remains debatable. Limited research indicates marijuana use may reduce libido and also the ability to reach orgasm.
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Payne KS et al. Cannabis and male fertility: a systematic review. Journal of Urology 2019 Mar 27
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Wu B. Does marijuana cause erectile dysfunction? MedicalNewsDaily 2018 Aug 9