R ecreational marijuana users have often said that marijuana enhances their sexual experience and now research shows they may be on to something. For years, marijuana’s Schedule I substance classification kept researchers from exploring the benefits. Now, however, with many states legalizing it for medicinal and recreational use, the doors have opened for scientific study and sex is becoming a popular research area. But how do marijuana and sex affect each other?
How Does Marijuana Affect Sex?
Researchers do not fully understand how marijuana benefits sexual experiences, but there are a few theories. Your body naturally makes its own version of cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids. In a 2017 study, researchers discovered that one of these, 2-AG, releases into the body after orgasms. This suggests that cannabinoids, such as those found in marijuana, already play a role in pleasurable sexual experiences.
It should be noted that the study doesn’t draw a distinction between men and women. In addition, we know that cannabis affects nerve pathways responsible for pain, and can relieve feelings of stress, fear, or anxiety. High levels of stress, anxiety, or depression can contribute to low sex drive or fewer orgasms. For some, the changes brought about by marijuana help promote a better sexual experience. Another 2017 study looked at the association between marijuana use and sexual frequency in the United States. Researchers analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth. Looking at 28,176 women and 22,943 men, they discovered that monthly, weekly, or daily marijuana users had significantly higher sexual frequency compared to those not using marijuana.
However, it’s important to remember that correlation doesn’t equal causation. These types of studies serve to find a relationship between marijuana use and sexual frequency that can be further researched, not to draw any concrete conclusions. Let’s take a closer look at how marijuana affects men and women through various studies.
Marijuana, Sex, and Women
The most recent study on women, sex, and marijuana use comes from Dr. Becky Lynn, the director of the Center for Sexual Health and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at St. Louis University. She wanted to better understand what women really thought about marijuana and how it affected their sex life. She offered women in her practice a survey that addressed marijuana use and how it affected sexual relations in regard to sex drive, lubrication, dyspareunia (vaginal pain during intercourse), orgasm, and the overall sexual experience.
Patients in her practice received a questionnaire during their visit and were asked to complete it anonymously and place it in a locked box in the office. 373 women participated, with 34 percent reporting marijuana use before sexual activity. Most women reported increases in sex drive, orgasm improvement, and reduced pain. There was no change reported in lubrication. Women who reported using marijuana before sex had 2.13 higher odds or satisfactory orgasms than those not using marijuana. Women reporting frequent marijuana use, whether before sex or not, reported 2.10 times higher odds of satisfactory orgasms than those with infrequent marijuana use.
Dr. Lynn concluded that marijuana appears to improve satisfaction with orgasms and that more research needs to look at the endocannabinoid system in women, as it could play a major role in treating female sexual dysfunction. This research by Dr. Lynn is very interesting because as we continue to learn more about the endocannabinoid system and how it affects behavior, we may find that cannabis products will become a useful secondary therapy in the treatment of sexual arousal disorders for women where there may be some psychological (i.e. anxiety) or physiological (ie. dyspareunia) barriers to achieving fully satisfying sexual experiences.
Marijuana, Sex, and Men
For men, the discussion of marijuana and sex, for many years looked at sexual dysfunction, or erectile dysfunction (ED). However, a 2018 study showed that there is not enough research or evidence to show that marijuana use contributes to erectile disfunction, however smoking cigarettes and alcohol played an important role. Unfortunately for men, daily marijuana use can lead to sexual complications. A study out of Australia looked at cannabis and its effects on sexual health. Men using marijuana daily reported the inability to reach orgasms, reaching orgasms too quickly, or too slowly.
Too Much Marijuana Can Have Negative Effects on Sex
As we see with the Australian study above, too much marijuana can have negative effects on sexual activity. Too much can cause sedation and paranoia, as well as an inward focus that can take away from your partner during sexual activity. Microdosing, or taking small amounts that do not produce a high, is often more beneficial for sexual activity and is a good place to start. Because marijuana affects everyone differently, it may be beneficial to start out low and experiment to see what strains work best for you before taking it into the bedroom.
Sexual Experiences and Satisfaction are Personal
What is enjoyable for one person, may not be for another. When it comes to research and evaluating sexual enjoyment, researchers look at biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to arousal, attraction, orgasm, and the overall satisfaction experienced. But again, good sex for one person may not be so for another. It is this uniqueness of the experience that may explain why some find marijuana beneficial for sex while others do not.
The effects of marijuana on a person are also unique, much like alcohol. While one person can get tipsy after one drink, another won’t feel any effects. The same is true of marijuana. Many studies on marijuana and sex are considered self-reported studies. Researchers provide participants with a series of questions, asking about their drug use and their sexual experiences. Because of this, the results rely on what the participants can accurately and honestly remember — which can be swayed by personal bias, the placebo effect. It also offers only opinions and not any medical evidence to back up the connection.
That being said, self-reported still shed some light on certain behaviors that may be difficult to study experimentally, either for logistical or ethical reasons. As marijuana becomes legalized, more in-depth research is bound to occur.
This information is presented for informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition. Please always consult your own doctor.