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Marijuana Has Definite Sexual Benefits, But We’re Far From Fully Understanding Them
A recent study in the journal Pharmacological Research examined the aphrodisiac effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical that gives cannabis its heady high. A closer read of the study revealed that 50–70% of marijuana users reported an increase in sexual excitement and desire or “enhancement in pleasure and satisfaction” after smoking the drug. The study also warns, however, that smoking too much weed can actually impair sexual function.
Researchers from the University of Catania in Italy and Charles University and Masaryk University in the Czech Republic conducted a literature review of previous cannabis studies to discover commonalties between users.
Overall, they found that both male and female weed smokers report an increase in libido after smoking, suggesting that marijuana can boost your sexual pleasure regardless of your gender.
RELATED | Can Smoking Weed Actually Turn You Gay?
But they also found conflicting information about how much marijuana a person needs to get that sexual boost. One previous study suggested that smoking two joints per week provides the optimal boost, whereas another study said that smoking more than one joint before sex can actually cause erectile dysfunction or a loss of desire altogether (though perhaps an increased desire for Cheetohs and video games).
Research on the sexual benefits of marijuana is restricted and outdated
This literature review has several drawbacks: For one, the review only covered studies that were one or two decades old. The U.S. federal government has labeled cannabis a “schedule one drug” similar to heroin, believing that it has absolutely no scientific or medical benefit despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This labelling makes it near impossible for American researchers to study the drug’s medical, psychological and sexual effects.
Secondly, the studies only focused on smoking marijuana, leaving out the effects of ingesting weed-edibles (something that tends to affect people more slowly). Also, it’s unclear what potency, chemical makeup or exact amounts of weed that smokers need to get the best sexual effect.
Occasional marijuana smokers may only need a few puffs to feel more turned on, whereas regular smokers with a higher tolerance may need more. Not all cannabis strains are the same, either. Some have more THC, providing a heady high, whereas some have more CBD (cannabidiol), an active ingredient that is less intoxicating and contributes to a more relaxing bodily high and possibly heightened sexual sensitivity.
Nevertheless, we understand the chemical basis for some sexual benefits of marijuana
Nevertheless, some medical professionals have studied the drug’s effects and made some suggestions for those looking for a cannabis boost to their libido.
Jordan Tishler, M.D., a Harvard-trained physician who runs a cannabis clinic in Boston, suggests smoking weed with no more than 14% THC content at least five minutes before sex to let the drug’s chemicals take hold.
Tishler also said that weed can release oxytocin in the body, a hormone that can make one feel more closely bonded to their partner, deepening intimacy and connection during sex.
Dr. Mitch Earleywine, professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany told New York Magazine that marijuana affects the brain’s CB1 receptors, areas that can make us more sensitive to tactile sensations and increase our general sense of euphoria. As a result, Earleywine has observed that marijuana makes many people more responsive to touch and able to achieve longer, more intense orgasms.
However, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, the retired Harvard Medical School professor known as “the grandfather of modern medicinal cannabis research,” says the effect of cannabis really depends on one’s “set and setting.”
“The set means all the ideas, thoughts, experiences that you have with this particular drug, and the setting is the surroundings. For instance, are you afraid you’re going to have a knock on the door and the cops will come in? Those things influence the high. So part of the set in having a sexual experience is how the people feel about each other,” Grinspoon says.
Featured image by BraunS via iStock
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