Marijuana comes from the leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the Cannabis sativa hemp plant. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana’s main chemical is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It also has over 100 related chemicals known as cannabinoids.
Marijuana is smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints) or inhaled through pipes (bongs). Some people make marijuana tea or mix it into baked goods such as cookies, brownies, and candy.
Marijuana is often associated with side effects that may affect sexual health, including erectile dysfunction (ED). ED is the inability to get and keep an erection. A common condition, it may lead to stress and relationship issues.
If ED happens now and then, there’s often no need for concern. If it’s frequent, it may be a symptom of another health condition. In that case, treating the other condition may resolve ED.
Read on to learn more about the connection between marijuana and ED.
Short-term effects of marijuana include:
- altered senses
- altered sense of time
- mood changes
- impaired movements
- difficulty thinking
Many states have legalized marijuana for medical use. However, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved marijuana for any medical condition. But there are synthetic THC medications that are approved for some medical conditions.
Conditions eligible for medical marijuana vary by state, and may include:
- HIV and AIDS
- hepatitis C
- wasting diseases, such as cachexia
- seizures and epilepsy
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease
- multiple sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
Medical marijuana isn’t approved for ED. Some states allow marijuana use for conditions not on the approved list, if your doctor identifies them as debilitating.
High cholesterol is a risk factor for ED. A study published in Clinical and Developmental Immunology found that marijuana may help reduce tissue buildup and damage caused by high cholesterol. However, the study was conducted on mice, not humans, so more research is needed.
Marijuana has a reputation of giving users a feeling of euphoria. Some users report moods that may improve sexual experiences, such as:
- elevated mood
- increased sexual desire
- increased arousal
However, marijuana may not always provide the sexual boost it’s known for. A 2011 literature review published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that marijuana may actually increase the risk of ED.
Studies show that when THC reaches the brain, it gives users the feeling of being “high.” This interferes with your body’s normal functions. It may also impact the normal function of the penis’s smooth muscle, resulting in ED.
According to the Mayo Clinic, marijuana is also a possible cause of gynecomastia. Gynecomastia is an enlargement of the breasts in men, and it’s caused by a hormone imbalance. A hormonal imbalance could affect sexual performance.
Marijuana may cause dangerous interactions with certain drugs, including:
- Blood thinners. Marijuana may interfere with blood thinners and increase bleeding risk. Use with caution if you take blood thinners such as aspirin (Bayer), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), warfarin (Coumadin), and naproxen (Aleve).
- Blood sugar medications. It may affect blood sugar levels. Use with caution if you take medications that affect blood sugar, such as insulin.
- Blood pressure medications. It may lower blood pressure. Be careful if you take blood pressure medications, such as diuretics or beta-blockers.
- Drugs that cause drowsiness. It may increase drowsiness when taken with drugs that cause drowsiness, such as lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium).
Taking sildenafil (Viagra) with marijuana may not be a smart move either. A 2006 paper published in Clinical Cardiology showed that marijuana prevents Viagra from being properly metabolized. This increases Viagra’s effects, which might mean an increased risk of heart problems.
Other drug interactions are also possible. If you use marijuana, tell your doctor before taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Few large-scale, high-quality studies have explored the connection between marijuana and sexual health. Whether the drug enhances sex or ruins it depends on many factors. These may include the variety of marijuana used, your overall health, and your views on sexual health.
If you have ED and are wondering if marijuana may help, talk to your doctor. They’ll help you weigh the benefits with potential risks and side effects, both sexual and otherwise.
It’s worth getting a diagnosis from your doctor regardless of what treatment approach you decide since underlying conditions might be discovered.