Marijuana is legal for adult use in 18 states and the District of Columbia. In 36 states, medical marijuana is legally used to treat a variety of medical concerns. However, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance at the federal level, which means it has a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use.
This designation makes it difficult for researchers to study whether marijuana can cause erectile dysfunction or have any other sexual effects. However, there is emerging evidence that cannabis use can help with pain control and treat multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cancer, and unintentional weight loss. This, coupled with the more widespread acceptance of medical marijuana, may make it easier for researchers to study marijuana’s effects in the future.
Marijuana is derived from the leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the Cannabis sativa plant. Though the plant contains over 100 cannabinoids, the primary chemical most users seek is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Marijuana has many short-term effects on the user, including short-term pain relief, altered sensation, mood changes, impaired movement, and difficulty thinking. Cannabis is a term used to refer to the psychoactive components of the Cannabis sativa plant.
Marijuana is reported to enhance sexual function in both men and women. Researchers surveyed men who used cannabis and found a wide range of perceptions. About four in ten men said cannabis use improved their sexual experience, slightly fewer men had mixed results, and roughly a quarter of men said marijuana improved their sexual experience occasionally. About five percent of men said cannabis use worsened their sexual experience. Being able to relax and focus better were perceived benefits, and an inability to reach orgasm was a drawback.
In another study, researchers compared reported marijuana use with sexual frequency. They found that people who used cannabis, whether monthly, weekly, or daily, reported more frequent sex than those who did not. They concluded that marijuana use was associated with increased sexual frequency and did not appear to negatively impact sexual function.
Natural endocannabinoids in your brain and body regulate many processes, such as
These receptors are found throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) similarly to natural endocannabinoid binding to these receptors.
The other major chemical found in cannabis is cannabidiol (CBD). CBD may relieve pain, decrease inflammation, and decrease anxiety without causing the mind-altering effects associated with THC.
When researchers evaluated the results from five case-control studies involving 3,395 healthy men who used cannabis, they found that the overall prevalence of erectile dysfunction in the group that used marijuana was 69.7%, almost double that of the control group (34.7%). For men who use marijuana, the rate of erectile dysfunction was almost twice that of those who abstain from using the drug.
In a study that evaluated the relationship between cigarette smoking, alcohol intake, exercise, and marijuana use with erectile dysfunction, researchers found the following relationships:
Smoking marijuana can make your heart beat faster and raise your blood pressure. Marijuana smoke contains many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke. Smoking tobacco is associated with an increased risk of ED. Both the chemicals found in tobacco smoke and nicotine are to blame. There is a dose-dependent relationship between tobacco smoke and ED. The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher the risk of ED symptoms. Marijuana smoke contains many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke, so the effect may be similar.
Besides the brain, there are cannabinoid receptors in the corpus cavernosum of the penis. Some animal studies have shown that activating these receptors causes the muscle relaxation needed for an erection. Other studies suggest that cannabis prevents relaxation and decreases blood flow into the penis, increasing the risk of ED.
Erectile dysfunction is more common in men with cardiovascular disease. Decreased blood flow into the penis can make it more difficult to get and maintain an erection. ED medications dilate blood vessels in order to maximize flow into the penis. Oral ED medications act on the PDE5- nitric oxide pathway. After sexual stimulation, oral ED medications keep nitric oxide levels high by inhibiting the enzyme PDE5. Oral ED medications work for about 70% of men who use them. A second-line treatment, injectables such as Trimix are another option. For those who switch to injectable ED medications, 95% get and sustain an erection suitable for sexual activity.
The evidence is clear that smoking is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction as it is a vasoconstrictor that narrows blood vessels and decreases blood flow into the penis. The evidence linking alcohol use and erectile dysfunction, and marijuana use and ED are less clear.
Unfortunately, there is a paucity of research that provides any definitive evidence either pro or against a link between marijuana use and erectile dysfunction. This is also the case for alcohol use. Alcohol is a much better-studied drug than marijuana. Alcohol in moderation may have a positive effect on ED. Higher levels of alcohol use are associated with an increased risk of ED, along with other health problems. This is likely the case with marijuana as well. Low doses will help some men with performance anxiety and libido, while in others, even low doses may be a problem.
If you have ED, it is important to understand its cause. ED can be an early indicator of cardiovascular disease. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms to learn about effective treatment options.
Marijuana use may affect your hormone levels. In one small study, men had a statistically significant drop in testosterone levels after six months of marijuana use. Your doctor may request a men’s standard hormone panel to rule-out low testosterone levels as a cause of your symptoms, as well.
There are many effective treatment options for ED, including medications and injectables such as Trimix. Since cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure are important contributing factors to ED, regular exercise and a healthy diet can improve cardiovascular health, as can quitting smoking.
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.