Does marijuana cause erectile dysfunction (ED)? The jury, it seems, is still out on that question. A study completed in 2013 found that marijuana can reduce the risk of ED, while previous studies indicated that it can cause dysfunction. What should you believe?
If you ask men about marijuana and sex, you’re likely to get a variety of responses. Some men claim that it enhances sexual pleasure and provides more stamina. Others might tell you that it makes it more difficult to get and keep an erection. Science, meanwhile, appears to be just as conflicted. One reason for that might be because there are few studies on the subject: up until recently, of course, marijuana was illegal throughout the United States and studies on it were not approved by the U.S government. While it is still considered illegal by the federal government, marijuana – through legalization in many states – is becoming more accepted. In April 2016, marijuana (as opposed to merely extracts from it) was approved for the first time in a study on treatments for PTSD.
Still, it will likely be a while before science can definitely answer the question of whether marijuana causes ED.
At least some of the confusion around the question dates back to the 1980s. In 1982, one study showed that men who smoked marijuana reported enhanced sex lives while a different study that same year showed men who smoked marijuana had twice the rate of sexual dysfunction. Other studies, meanwhile, showed there wasn’t much difference in performance or libido between those who smoked and those that didn’t.
In 2010, a European study found that the THC in marijuana interfered with erections in animal studies, leading to the conclusion that marijuana contributes to ED. Another study that year, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that the connection between the two wasn’t very strong.
In 2013, a study published in the journal Clinical & Developmental Immunology explained how marijuana can actually help prevent ED, at least in mice. The marijuana helped to reduce vascular damage caused by high cholesterol, and therefore could improve sexual function.
What does all this mean to you?
In light of the many conflicting studies over the years, here are some things to keep in mind:
How much you smoke will play an important part in whether or not you have sexual side effects – both bad and good. If you smoke a little bit, you might feel it enhances your sexual experience and chances are a little bit will not cause ED.
Most of the researchers agree that long-term and high levels of marijuana or cannabis are more likely to cause problems. Some research has shown that daily marijuana smokers are three times more likely to have ED problems that those who don’t smoke at all.
Each person reacts differently to cannabis. Just as alcohol and medications have a different effect on each person, cannabis does as well. Some people might get very high with just a little, while others need much more. Sexual side effects could be different for each person, too.
There are many different types of marijuana, and each one could have a different effect on you. Think of it in terms of alcohol. Drinking a glass of wine probably affects you differently than drinking the same size glass of whiskey. Some strains of marijuana have a stimulating effect and some are meant to make you mellow.
If you live in or are traveling to a state where marijuana is legal for recreational use, consider trying a small amount to see how it affects your sexual experiences. Because ED is not on most states’ recognized list of medical conditions, if you live in a state where marijuana is legal for medical purposes, you would need to speak to your doctor to determine if he or she could prescribe it for you.