Cannabis and Sex – Unraveling Research
Cannabis (marijuana) has a bit of a mixed reputation when it comes to sex. While some have ascribed it to being a traditional herbal aphrodisiac with nearly mythical libido-boosting powers, many others are of the opinion that the substance reduces sperm count and can contribute to erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.
In reality, the relationship between Sex and Cannabis is far more complicated than any of the above assumptions. In this article, we would try to establish in very small measure (yes, small measure because there are very little bodies of research on the subject) the relationship between cannabis and sex.
Note: Sexual arousal and functioning is a very complicated subject, and its relationship with any substance has more to do with the individual’s sexuality than it is with the substance, in this case, Cannabis.
Before we get into the thick of the subject, it’s important to establish that “good sex” means different things to different people, and even for the same person, the time of day or even the day in question and other social factors can have an immense effect on how enjoyable sexual acts can be.
But what does the Research Say?
When researchers examine sexual enjoyment, they tend to take different aspects of it into account. Some of the factors that are considered include biological, social, and psychological factors that may play a role in attraction, arousal, orgasm, and overall satisfaction. The approach is no different when establishing a relationship between cannabis and sex.
Because of the nature of cannabis, it is difficult to measure its effect on the sexual behavior of participants in a controlled study. Rather than rely on the controlled study technique in this research, most researchers have opted for self-reported surveys.
Most of what we know about cannabis and sex comes from self-reported surveys. But there a few drawbacks to studies of these nature. For one, it requires relying on people to accurately (and honestly) remember how much and how often they’ve used particular substances, as well as what effect those substances had on their sex lives.
Researchers also have no way of corroborating what survey respondents say. Scientists can’t test the drug people have been using to see what it actually is (does it have a high THC content? Is it a concentrate or an edible?) And they have to trust that they and their study subjects share a common frame of reference for and definition of subjective words to describe a highly personal experience, like “enjoyment.”
But that won’t stop us from examining the results.
In a study (about the first-ever publication on the subject) published in 1979 in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, researchers asked a group of 84 grad students what they thought the relationship between cannabis and sex would be. Those who had firsthand experience with the topic (39 percent) were asked to answer from that perspective. Although the groups agreed that cannabis increases overall sexual pleasure, only those who were “experienced smokers” also strongly believed that it increased the intensity of an orgasm and that it should be considered an aphrodisiac.
In a more recent study published in 2017 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, data from the large nationally representative National Survey of Family Growth were used. Researchers found that people who reported using cannabis monthly, weekly, or daily also reported slightly more frequent sex than those who never smoked. (Women who used cannabis daily had an average of 7.1 sexual encounters in the previous four weeks compared to 6 for those who never used it.)
From the above two studies, it is safe to deduce that the consumption of cannabis plays a significant role in sexual enjoyment and satisfaction.
However, to further establish the fact, let us examine a separate study involving 373 female respondents. In this study, 176 respondents reported ever using cannabis, with about half of them reporting frequent use (anywhere from once a week to several times a day). 127 of the 176 cannabis users reported ever using cannabis before sex.
In the study, there were a few major findings;
- People who reported ever using cannabis prior to sex were more likely to report having satisfying orgasms than those who did not use cannabis before sex (and this was a statistically significant difference).
- Those who reported frequent cannabis use (not necessarily before sex) were also significantly more likely to report having satisfying orgasms than people who reported infrequent cannabis use.
- People who reported using cannabis before sex were also more likely to say that they use cannabis specifically to decrease pain (though this wasn’t a statistically significant difference).
This study does have many of the same limitations as those that came before it (such as small sample size and a possible self-selection bias), but it’s unique in that it gives a balanced view of the subject matter, seeing that most surveys had focused solely on men.
With that said, let’s see how cannabis can impact sex.
Wrap Up: Here is how cannabis could theoretically impact sex.
While we cannot say for sure how it happens, we can only try to explain, given the limited evidence at our disposal.
Cannabis is a vasodilator (meaning it opens blood vessels and increases blood flow), plus its effect on order functions, including memory and feelings of fear and anxiety, it is hard not to see how it can’t contribute to having better sex.
In addition, animal research suggests that stimulating the CB1 receptor can delays ejaculation. So, if we were to mirror the same response in humans, it is only logical that cannabis consumption may contribute to the increased level of enjoyment the human participants reported in the surveys we mentioned previously.
So you see, although the research is still unraveling, there are some valid cases of cannabis having a significant influence over how we can enjoy and participate in sexual acts.