May 31, 2011
Does marijuana help or hinder male sexual performance? There are supporters on both sides. Some men say the drug enhances their experience. Others say it makes sex worse.
But what the long-term effects of marijuana on men’s sexual health?
Marijuana is one of the most commonly abused substances in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. If you’re a man using marijuana, here are some things you’ll want to consider:
Earlier this year, The Journal of Sexual Medicine published a study suggesting a link between marijuana and erectile dysfunction.
To understand this link, it helps to understand how marijuana affects the brain. The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. When a person uses marijuana, THC interacts with proteins in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. This interaction impairs the person’s brain function.
Researchers discovered that cannabinoid receptors are also present in penile tissue. They suggest that the interaction with THC likewise impairs penile function (possibly causing erectile dysfunction), although more study is recommended.
Problems with Orgasm
Researchers at La Trobe University surveyed 8,656 Australian men and women between the ages of 16 and 64. Their goal was to find out how cannabis use affected sexual outcomes, including the number of sexual partners, condom use, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and sexual problems.
In the study, men who used marijuana every day were four times more likely to have problems reaching orgasm than men who didn’t use. In addition, men who used marijuana every day were three times more likely to experience premature ejaculation than men who didn’t.
Other male daily users said they reached orgasm too slowly.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of new cases of testicular cancer in the United States has almost doubled in the last 50 years. During that time period, the number of people who report having used marijuana at least once has also risen substantially. This led researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the University of Washington to investigate a possible link.
Previous studies had shown that cannabinoid receptors were found in the testes, which could interact with THC.
Researchers interviewed 369 men with testicular cancer and 979 without the disease. All of the men lived in Washington State.
Approximately 70% of the men in each group said they had used marijuana at least once. The researchers found that:
- The men with testicular cancer were 70% more likely to be marijuana users.
- If the men started using marijuana before age 18, their odds of developing testicular cancer was 80%, compared to nonusers.
- Men who used marijuana at least once a week were twice as likely to develop testicular cancer compared to nonusers.
Also troubling was the type of testicular cancer diagnosed. There are two categories of testicular cancer: nonseminomas and seminomas. Nonseminomas are more common in younger men. They also move more quickly and have lower survival rates.
Researchers discovered a particular link between marijuana use and nonseminomas.
The study authors thought perhaps long-term exposure to marijuana, especially during puberty, also played a significant role. However, they also noted that further research should be done.
Marijuana can also affect a man’s fertility. More specifically, THC hinders sperm cells’ ability to swim to an egg cell. And, if the sperm even reaches the egg, it will have a harder time fertilizing it.
When healthy sperm cells are released, they don’t start swimming toward the egg right away. Instead, they go with the flow of the semen until they are closer to the egg. Then the swimming starts in a process called hyperactivation.
But sperm under the influence of marijuana start swimming immediately. The result? Many tire themselves out and don’t reach the egg at all.
Those that do reach the egg are less likely to fertilize it. This is because THC hinders their ability to release enzymes needed to pass through the egg cell’s wall.
Researchers at Queen’s University in Ireland tested sperm cells that were treated with THC in a lab. In their sample, up to 30% of the sperm cells didn’t release those necessary enzymes.
Marijuana can also cause fertility issues for women. If a woman uses marijuana, THC can travel to her uterus, cervix, vagina, and vaginal fluids. Sperm cells that come into contact with THC from the woman behave much like sperm cells from a man who uses marijuana.
Therefore, couples who want to conceive are advised to avoid marijuana use.
The Bottom Line
If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction or problems with orgasm, consider your marijuana intake. And if you have concerns about testicular cancer or fertility, speak to your doctor.