Article written by
Shanti RyleContent Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
The science is thin on how marijuana impacts sex drive positively or negatively, so it’s hard to say that cannabis will negatively affect your sex life. Plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that marijuana can make sex more satisfying and boost sexual desire for women, yet it can allegedly cause erectile dysfunction in men.
In reality, whether weed lowers sex drive likely has a much more complicated answer than any current anecdotes address. This article examines the existing research to explore what we currently know and still need to study about marijuana use’s impact on sex and sex drive.
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How Cannabis Affects Sex Drive
First and foremost, due to cannabis’ status as a Schedule I controlled substance, researchers have faced uphill challenges in studying its effect on sex drive. As such, most available research comes from participant survey responses rather than clinical evidence from a controlled lab experiment. Self-reported surveys are inherently biased, and there’s no way to corroborate responses with actual experiences.
The phenomenon of sexual arousal is also complex: biological, social, environmental, and psychological factors all play their part in the different stages of sex. What constitutes a good sex life is different for different people and can change based on mood and circumstances.
Cannabis interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in several brain areas that deal with sexual function. A recent study found that masturbation to orgasm led to increased cannabinoid 2-AG in blood samples, suggesting that the ECS plays a role in sexual activity. Cannabis also increases blood flow, essential in physiological arousal, and increases the sensitivity of nerve receptors in the skin, contributing to enhanced sensory experiences.
On the subjective side, a participant study found that cannabis use before sexual activity helped individuals relax, heightened touch sensitivity, and increased the intensity of emotions. Another survey found that users who reported regular cannabis use had slightly more frequent sexual encounters than those who didn’t consume cannabis.
Women, in particular, reported a two times higher likelihood of satisfying orgasm when using cannabis before sex than those who didn’t, as did women who reported frequent cannabis use. However, cannabis has the potential to dry out mucus, which could require some women to use a personal lubricant.
For men, cannabis could have potential adverse side effects on sexual health. Some studies found that long-term effects of cannabis use can include decreased sexual pleasure and lead to a disinterest in enjoying intimacy with a partner.
Cannabis may also have an impact on erectile dysfunction and also interacts negatively with Viagra. One study found that cannabis may lower sperm count in men in high doses, though another recent study found that moderate use may lead to higher sperm counts.
An animal study also showed that increased stimulation of the CB1 receptor – on which THC and CBD act – delays ejaculation time, inhibiting men’s ability to reach orgasm. Another participant study supports these findings, where it was believed that cannabis’ distortion of time perception was the culprit.
However, animal studies do not always translate to humans. One literature review on cannabis and sexual function found that both men and women report increased sexual enjoyment, orgasm intensity, sexual intensity, body sensitivity, and growth or no change in sexual desire. The authors also note that women were more likely than men to report sexual dysfunction after cannabis usage.
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Using Cannabis to Enhance Sex Drive
When considering adding cannabis to spur your sexual desire and enjoyment, dosing is a critical component to keep in mind. You should understand your tolerance before incorporating a partner into the cannabis-driven sexual experience to better understand its impact on your arousal levels before adding other variables.
Start at lower doses and gradually increase as you test to see what works best with your system. Too-high doses can induce nausea or anxiety/paranoia, both of which diminish the enjoyment of the sexual experience and lower sex drive.
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Various consumption methods lend themselves to sexual experiences, some better than others. Topicals and cannabis-infused lotions or oils can be a fun addition to bedroom play, though topicals are less likely to produce psychoactive effects than localized sensations.
Smoking or vaping cannabis flower or oils will produce much faster-acting euphoria, with the effects lasting up to two hours. For longer sessions, edibles have a slow onset but produce longer-lasting results.
Anecdotal reports recommend choosing strains with higher levels of the terpenelimonene to help ramp up sex drive. Indica-dominant strains that produce more physical, calming euphoria may also boost sexual enjoyment and lower inhibition. Strains (cultivars) that have been reported to increase sexual desire include Blue Dream, Atomic Northern Lights, Strawberry Kush, Blueberry, and Jillybean.
For those seeking strains to relieve pain during sex, options with higher levels of beta-caryophyllene, humulene, or myrcene can help eliminate the discomfort that would prevent sexual enjoyment. A pinene- and linalool-rich cannabis variety may be ideal for those looking to relieve anxiety. Those looking to reduce fatigue may prefer something with more limonene.
Overall, there does not seem to be a particular cannabis cultivar that can increase sexual desire – it all depends on personal preference.
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The Bottom Line: How Marijuana Use Affects Libido
Despite a dearth of research, dozens of cannabis products line dispensary shelves that claim to enhance the sexual experience or help with libido issues. Sex is a highly individualized experience, with many factors involved in its various stages and those of your partner.
If you live in a state with legalized marijuana sales, it certainly won’t hurt to experiment and see how it impacts your sex drive. Start with smaller doses, experiment with different consumption methods, and openly communicate with your partner about what works or doesn’t.
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