Marijuana is on a roll. Polls indicate that support for legalizing recreational weed is at an all-time high. Medical pot is becoming mainstream. Indeed, on Thursday, NBA commissioner David Stern agreed that cannabis has a place in the league. And now, a new study has found “a positive association between marijuana use and sexual frequency” in both men and women. That’s right, a little cannabis may help “turn you on” to your partner.
Does marijuana increase the sex drive?
The study was conducted by Dr. Michael Eisenberg at the Stanford University Medical Center. Dr. Eisenberg is a urologist who works with individuals and couples who have a hard time (no pun intended) getting aroused. Initially, he speculated that frequent cannabis use might be dampening desire in some of his patients.
Dr. Eisenberg began to investigate the matter, but his research results surprised him. As he explained, “Usually, people assume the more frequently you smoke, the worse it could be when it came to sex, but in fact, we learned the opposite was true.”
In fact, Dr. Eisenberg looked at an extensive body of government data — specifically, a report entitled the National Survey of Family Growth — which encompassed a survey of 28,000 women and 23,000 men regarding their sexual habits. When Dr. Eisenberg examined that information statistically he discovered an unmistakable trend:
- Women who didn’t smoke pot had sex on average 6 times a month
- Women who did smoke pot had sex an average of 7.1 times a month
The same pattern held true for men:
- Men who didn’t smoke pot had sex an average of 5.6 times a month
- Men who did smoke pot had sex an average of 6.9 times a month
According to Dr. Eisenberg, studies involving laboratory animals support the hypothesis that marijuana increases arousal. However, some scholars cautioned that there isn’t an abundance of good research on the topic and more studies will be needed before reaching firm scientific conclusions.
Could marijuana interfere with an orgasm?
For example, Dr. Joseph Palmer, at NYU, observed that Dr. Eisenberg’s study was a “cool epidemiological paper” but he noted that smoking marijuana was sometimes correlated with vaginal dryness, which could make intercourse more difficult for some women. He also observed that marijuana use was sometimes associated with temporary feelings of paranoia, which (in his words) could “screw your ability to have an orgasm.”
Scientists are just beginning to explore the link between cannabis and sexuality. Dr. Palmer, for instance, authored a small study comparing the effects of alcohol versus marijuana when it comes to intimacy. In general, he found that while alcohol loosens inhibitions, it also leaves drinkers having more regrets about their sexual encounters. Pot, on the other hand, tends to make people more selective about their prospective partners.
Cannabinoid receptors in the sexual organs
It’s way too early to say if weed is a love enabler. Interestingly, there appear to be cannabinoid receptors in both the penis and the vagina. However, some researchers believe that smoking cannabis might inhibit an erection while heightening arousal in the female genitalia.
For instance, as Dr. Rany Shamloul noted, “Recent studies have shown cannabinoid receptors in the penis itself, and experiments in the lab show an inhibitory response. [So,] there was basically a mixed result. Cannabis might increase [sexual arousal] frequency in the brain, but also decrease erectile function in the penis.”
Psychologist Mitch Earleywine disagrees that cannabis lowers libido in men. In his view, cannabis “gets people to appreciate the moment more anyway. They like food more, find humor in things more easily, so it wouldn’t be stunning to think they would enjoy sex more.”
So far, no words on how cannabis affects same-sex couples. But it’s clear that the relationship between marijuana and sexuality is a deep subject and scientists are only beginning to scratch the surface.
— Scott O’Reilly