Because marijuana has been illegal for so long, it’s difficult to come across good studies and data that offer definitive answers to a number of questions we have about its efficacy. This holds true when it comes to how marijuana affects men’s reproductive health, too.
However, as time goes on and marijuana laws loosen across the world, we’re starting to get a much better understanding of how the plant works. When it comes to men’s health, it’s still hard to know much for sure as cannabis’s effects on the body are highly individual.
Maybe it’s born out of stoner stereotypes, but it’s been a common assumption for decades that marijuana is detrimental to men’s sex drive. Initially, early studies seemed to support this view. And as recently as 2011, one study pointed out that chronic cannabis consumption—more than once a week—could lead to reproductive issues for men, including lowered libido and erectile dysfunction.
But more recent research seems to blow that idea out of the water. A 2015 study from Stanford University surveyed about 50,000 people over a 12-year period. The results showed in simple terms that the more marijuana people consume, the more sex they have. This holds true for both men and women of all different races, religions and ethnicities. People who smoke marijuana daily have about 20% more sex than those who smoke no cannabis at all.
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This doesn’t necessarily mean that men have more sex because they use marijuana—it may be that people who use cannabis are more open to sexual encounters. Even though we don’t know if marijuana and sex have a causal relationship, it’s a pretty striking correlation.
Even though men who consume marijuana have more sex than those who don’t, marijuana may still cause some sexual dysfunction. Some people have used cannabis as a cure for erectile dysfunction, but it may not be the most effective treatment.
These studies aren’t definitive. It’s likely that how marijuana affects performance has a lot more to do with people on an individual basis. We know that sexual systems in the body are facilitated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS). We also know that the ECS varies from person to person.
Eventually, science will uncover more concrete answers for how marijuana affects sexual performance in men, but right now it’s still murky, and best for individuals to decide for themselves if cannabis helps or hurts them in this department.
Marijuana almost certainly lowers sperm count in men. However, how much, and how important the problem is, is hard to determine.
Unlike marijuana’s effects on sex drive and sexual performance, there’s much more consensus on how marijuana effects sperm count. One study from Denmark in 2015 found that marijuana use could drop sperm count by 29%. The study even controlled for other factors that may contribute to lower sperm count. For example, people who consume marijuana are more likely to smoke cigarettes, which can also affect sperm count.
While these results are noteworthy, they’re not totally definitive. This study is small enough that it’s possible random chance had more to do with sperm levels than any factors the researchers tested for. But, urologists unrelated to the Denmark study have noticed that even occasional cannabis use can damage sperm.
It’s important to note that sperm counts have been falling in the western world for four straight decades, and no one’s really sure why. A combination of factors including obesity, diet, lack of exercise and dozens of other things that researchers have looked at to explain the falling sperm counts exist for marijuana consumers, too. However, there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests cannabis lowers sperm count regardless of other environmental factors.
For men who use marijuana medically, it may be a good idea to consult with a urologist. These effects aren’t well understood, and it’s entirely possible further research will reverse these conclusions. But right now, the best evidence suggests cannabis has adverse effects on men’s sperm.
It’s unlikely male cannabis consumers will see a problem in having more sex. But for men looking to start families, it’s possible long-term marijuana use could cause some fertility problems in the future.
For medical consumers, how marijuana interacts with the body is a whole different ball game. Medical conditions also have adverse effects on sperm, so in that case, it’s possible marijuana is helping sperm count.
We all know marijuana can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. But for whole body health, it’s important to realize the limitations of cannabis. For men who are looking to start a family, or are experiencing sexual issues, marijuana could be equal parts problem and solution. Looking into how marijuana affects your body, and consulting with doctors and addressing those health problems is the best bet for cannabis-consuming men and their sexual health.
Photo credit: Matheus Ferrero