If you’re worried about marijuana and ED, you probably don’t need to be — if you’re just a moderate weed user. But the research is inconclusive.
While some studies show a weak correlation between using marijuana and having episodes of erectile dysfunction, others don’t. And very little research has actually been done.
Plus, there are things like motivation, your dopamine response and other factors that must be brought into the equation too.
Let try to make sense of it all.
The first studies on the topic of marijuana and ED came in the 1970s and 1980s. The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs was among the first to get in on the debate — and the research published in its pages was confusing, to say the least.
A 1982 study reported that 75 percent of guys who smoke weed had enhanced sex lives. Of course, this could be because of their altered perceptions.
That same year, a different study in the same journal found that marijuana users had twice as much sexual dysfunction as those who didn’t use the herb.
Yet more research showed that small amounts of pot didn’t do much of anything to libido or performance but larger doses impacted the ability to get erections.
Then a 2010 study in European Urology found that receptors for marijuana’s active ingredient THC are present in the penis tissue, specifically in the smooth muscle tissue.
When additional studies showed that THC inhibits this muscle tissue, it provided serious evidence that pot messes with the way the penis performs.
As much as 80 percent of your penis is smooth muscle, and THC makes that muscle not work right. That’s really bad, isn’t it?
But hold the phone! The Correlation May Not Be So Strong.
In 2010, the Journal of Sexual Medicine published a study review that looked at previous research on marijuana and ED…but there wasn’t much of a conclusion.
The research reviewers found that:
Cannabis use may lead to better erections in lab animals but humans may respond in a different way.
Some human trials have shown an increase in sexual desire and a decrease in sexual capability when pot is used, but the trials were small and there have been very few of them.
Since lab animal trials and human trials conflict, no conclusion can be drawn.
Specifically, the researchers said:
“Studies examining the effects of cannabis use on male sexual function have been limited in both quality and quantity. Most results of these studies are conflicting and contradictory.” (source)
But consider this: As prevalent as marijuana usage is, why isn’t there a lot of evidence that it causes ED? Wouldn’t guys be rejecting pot in droves and turning instead to other ways to get high if it really caused sexual dysfunction?
That just isn’t happening.
And it’s known that psychological factors impact the ability to get hard. So do physical factors like heart disease and diabetes. Many other things do too.
Nearly 160 million people around the world use marijuana — about 4 percent of all the people on the planet — so why hasn’t more been made of the link between pot and ED? It may be because recreational pot use doesn’t really impact sexual function much.
So if you only use weed occasionally, you’re probably fine. And if you use weed and have sexual dysfunction, consider whether your ED could be caused by something else.
Lets set marijuana and ED aside for a moment and look at its impact on libido.
First off, even chronic marijuana use doesn’t appear to lower testosterone levels much, if at all.
The New England Journal of Medicine published this finding way back in 1974. Habitual marijuana use doesn’t impact other important male hormones, either.
This was shown in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 1990.
Marijuana use can free you from your inhibitions and from psychological factors that may negatively impact sexual performance. You don’t need a study to prove that if you’ve ever used weed before sex.
Pot may actually stimulate sex drive, leading to a desire to have sex and to have it more frequently.
While marijuana may impact different guys in different ways, you can’t establish that pot has a negative impact on libido, and there’s a strong case for it having a positive impact.
Ironically, smoking a blunt may cause a blunted response — to life experiences.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the body that fuels important biological and neurological functions.
When you smoke a lot of weed, according to one study, you still produce dopamine normally. But the compound doesn’t have as much of an impact on your body.
Alcohol and cocaine — as well as many other abused substances — actually increase dopamine. So you might think pot does too. But very little research has been done on the topic until recently.
In a 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…
Researchers examined 24 chronic, longtime marijuana users, then they gave them a stimulant to increase dopamine levels.
The stimulant worked, even on the chronic drug abusers, but for those who smoked frequently the dopamine didn’t have much of an impact.
Their behavior didn’t change, and there wasn’t much brain or cardiovascular impact from the dopamine either. They were restless and anxious, but their blood pressure and heart rate stayed relatively low.
So what does that mean for marijuana and ED?
The reward circuits in the brains of longtime pot users are apparently damaged. Their bodies produce plenty of crucial dopamine, but their brains simply don’t know what to do with it. That can lead to an inability to have the proper experiences for sexual satisfaction.
Perhaps worse is how this inability to react to dopamine may cause depression, anxiety and other negative conditions as well.
If you’re confused, it’s no wonder. Experts who devote their lives to research aren’t quite sure what to say about marijuana and ED.
But it’s safe to conclude that occasional marijuana use probably has no impact on sexual function.
Excessive use, however, can blunt your responses to stimuli, reduce your motivation to have sex, reduce your reward-seeking behavior and reduce your desire to do just about anything.
Except, perhaps, to have a taco and get some sleep.
If you smoke weed, do yourself and your sexual partner a favor and do it in moderation.