How using cannabis can affect sex and libido

Evidence suggests that cannabis enhances sex

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Consumers of recreational marijuana frequently say that cannabis enhances sexual experiences, and evidence now suggests that their claims might have credibility.

For years, cannabis’s Schedule I substance classification in the United States has held researchers back from investigating its benefits in bed. Now that several states have legalized cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes, sex is becoming a common area of research. But the question is, what impact does cannabis have on sex – and vice versa?

How does cannabis affect sex?

Researchers have yet to completely understand how cannabis can affect sexual experiences, but there are a couple of theories that might be onto something. The body produces endocannabinoids naturally. In 2017, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that an endocannabinoid called 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (or 2-AG) is released throughout the body after orgasm. This means that cannabinoids – much like the ones found in cannabis – already play a role in sexual activities.

We already know weed effects the nerves regulating our feelings of pain and can relieve our feelings of fear, stress and anxiety. When people are dealing with a high amount of stress or anxiety, they can have a lower sex drive, which, naturally, means less orgasms. Some people use cannabis before diving into bed because they say it increases their sex drive.

Another study published in 2017 focused on the association between cannabis use and the frequency of sexual activity among Americans. Using data from the National Survey of Family Growth, the researchers examined 28,176 women and 22,943 men and found that those who consumed cannabis either daily, weekly or monthly had a rate of sexual frequency that was higher than those who didn’t consume cannabis. 

It is important to keep in mind, though, that correlation does not equal causation. The purpose of these studies is to look for a relationship between cannabis use and sexual frequency that can be studied at a deeper level rather than form conclusions that are set in stone. 

Let’s look a little further into the effects of cannabis on men and women.

Cannabis, sex and women

Dr. Becky Lynn, the director of the Center for Sexual Health and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at St. Louis University, was in charge of a study on gender, sex and cannabis use. Her goal was to gain a more accurate understanding of how women perceive cannabis’s effects on their sex lives.

Lynn gave women a survey about cannabis usage and how it impacted sexual intercourse with respect to sex drive, lubrication, dyspareunia (vaginal pain during intercourse), orgasm and overall sexual experience.  Patients were asked to complete the questionnaire anonymously and place it in a locked box located in the office.

The majority of women reported having an increase in overall sex drive, reduced pain and an improvement in orgasms. No change in lubrication was identified.

The results showed that women had 2.13 higher odds of having a more satisfactory orgasm when using cannabis before sex than if they didn’t use it. Women who indicated regular use of cannabis – before sex or not – had a 2.10 times higher probability of having an adequate orgasm compared with women who didn’t use cannabis regularly. .

The study concluded that cannabis does seem to increase women’s ability to have a satisfying orgasm, though more research needs to be done to look deeper into the endocannabinoid system because it can be a contributing factor in possibly being able to treat women that are dealing with sexual dysfunction.

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Lynn’s work is fascinating because, as we learn more about the endocannabinoid system and how it impacts people, we we will know whether or not marijuana products could become a valuable alternative for women in need of treatment for sexual arousal problems in cases where there may be psychological (i.e. anxiety) or physiological (i.e. dyspareunia) obstacles to complete satisfaction.

Cannabis, sex and men

For many years, the debate around men, cannabis and sex has focused on sexual dysfunction, or erectile dysfunction (ED). A 2018 study by the International Society for Sexual Medicine concluded that there isn’t enough concrete research to accurately surmise if cannabis contributes to erectile dysfunction, but it noted that alcohol and cigarette smoking significantly contribute to ED.

Sadly, the routine use of cannabis will cause sexual problems for men, according to a 2009 Australian study examining marijuana and its impacts on sexual health. Men who regularly use cannabis described being unable to achieve orgasm or reaching climax far too slowly or far too quickly.

Does consuming too much cannabis have a negative impact on sex?

Too much cannabis can have adverse effects on sexual activity, according to the same Australian study. If you consume too much, it can create feelings of paranoia, sedation and a focus on yourself that tends to take away your focus on your partner during sex. If you microdose or uses small amounts of cannabis that doesn’t result in a high, cannabis can be more ideal for sex and a good starting point.

Since everyone is affected by cannabis in different ways, starting off at a low dose can help you gauge how it will impact your behaviour in the bedroom.

Satisfaction and sexual experiences are personal

Not everyone enjoys the same thing, which is why researchers look at biological, psychological and social factors contributing to arousal, desire, pleasure and overall satisfaction when it comes to studying sexual enjoyment. This variation in experiences may indicate why some people consider cannabis advantageous to women while others do not. 

Cannabis’s effects are also specific to each person, just like alcohol. One person might get drunk after one or two drinks, while other people won’t feel anything until they consume several drinks. The same rule applies to cannabis.

The majority of research focusing on cannabis and sex are self-reported. Researchers typically administer a series of questions to participants that ask about their cannabis use and sex lives. As such, the results are solely based on what people in the study can remember, meaning the studies can be affected by bias and placebo effects.

Additionally, this approach isn’t based on concrete medical evidence because participants are just giving opinions. Still, these self-reported studies are focused on behaviour and behaviour can be hard to study. When cannabis is legalized in more places, the more research will dive into this topic. 

Note: the information in this story is strictly for informational purposes and should not be used to treat or diagnose any medical conditions.