Is cannabis conducive to Erectile Dysfunction?

24.03.2022 - Vertica® experts

Cannabis is one of the most commonly used illicit soft drugs to which various health benefits are attributed, but can it affect men’s performance in the bedroom?

 

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a very common condition involving the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient enough for sexual intercourse.

Although ED becomes more common as men age, it is not considered a natural part of aging and it can hurt the self-confidence and sex life of many men. In fact, the development of ED can indicate an underlying medical problem, such as diabetes, heart disease, a neurological problem or high blood pressure.

In recent years a close link between the use of different psychoactive substances (such as alcohol) and ED was discovered, but does it apply to cannabis use as well?

 

Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System

When talking about cannabis, the reference is to the flowers, leaves, seeds and stems of the Cannabis sativa plant. This plant contains a wide range of active constituents including a major group of substances called cannabinoids, of which THC and CBD are the most researched and well-known ones.

The cannabis plant affects many biological functions in the body and it does so by interacting with the endocannabinoid system – a body system comprising a network of receptors (CB1 and CB2 receptors) that are found in different tissues and organs, to which natural substances called endocannabinoids bind. The endocannabinoid system has an important role in maintaining internal balance and stability (homeostasis) in the body, including in relation to sleep, mood, immunity, the inflammatory response, and all these are just a part of its numerous functions. Apart from our natural endo-cannabinoids, cannabinoids in the cannabis plant can likewise bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors and in turn trigger various responses in the body and brain. For example, chronic symptoms of pain, inflammation, nausea, anxiety and many others are improved following cannabis consumption. In addition, THC is known as psychoactive: on one hand it can improve mood, creativity and appetite and on the other, it can alter the senses, make thinking difficult, cause some impairment of movement and alter time perception.

 

Cannabis and Male Sexual Function

Similar to most synthetic medications, cannabis too has several positive therapeutic effects together with some unwanted side effects, including in relation to sexual function. So far however, the science behind this has been mixed, with some studies showing that cannabis improves measures relating to male sexuality and others indicating the opposite. Therefore, before considering cannabis as a treatment for sexual dysfunction it is important to understand the pros and cons to combining it with sex. Highlighted below are some benefits and risks to using cannabinoid therapy for sexual wellbeing.

 

PROS:

  • Cannabis may reduce high cholesterol damage
    High cholesterol constitutes a risk factor for ED, as it might accumulate and occlude penile blood vessels. A preliminary study published in the Journal of Clinical and Developmental Immunology found that marijuana may help reduce cholesterol build-up and damage to blood vessels, and thus it may help prevent or slow down the development of ED.
  • The endocannabinoid system and sexual health
    It is currently known that cannabinoid receptors are found in high concentrations in areas of the brain that control our sexual function. Additionally, we know that blood levels of endocannabinoids that our body produces increase in states of sexual arousal. Therefore, it may be assumed that the binding of plant cannabinoids to receptors in the endocannabinoid system may help regulate sexual function in conditions of imbalance, and possibly improve sexual arousal. However, evidence from large scale human studies is needed to support this assumption.
  • Cannabis for improving libido
    In an American survey designed to examine the effect of cannabis on the frequency of sexual intercourse, 22,943 men participated. Results showed that among cannabis users (daily/weekly basis) the frequency of sexual intercourse was significantly higher compared to none users. But what should be remembered? research shows that low dosages increase libido while high dosages in fact reduce libido.
  • Cannabis for alleviating anxiety
    Cannabis contains active constituents which are known to alleviate anxiety, promote relaxation and improve mood. This may help improve sex in cases of stress and performance anxiety associated with ED.

CONS:

  • Cannabis and increased risk of ED
    Erectile dysfunction is the most common sexual disorder among men of various ages. In 2019 a systematic review was published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, which spanned five case-control studies with 3,395 healthy men (of which 1,035 were cannabis users). Results showed that ED prevalence among cannabis users was almost 70%, compared to approx. 35% among non-users. In other words, male cannabis users are almost twice as likely to develop ED than men who abstain from using the plant. The authors indicated that the link between ED and cannabis use is likely to be a mix of organic and psychological factors. One of the mechanisms is attributed to the binding of cannabinoids to receptors in a brain region called the hypothalamus, which regulates male erectile function and sexual behavior. It is also possible that the active constituent THC interferes with brain signals related to erection. Additionally, growing evidence from animal and human studies indicate a peripheral effect of cannabis. Consequently,  the binding of plant active constituents to cannabinoid receptors in peripheral erectile tissues could trigger ED. The authors concluded that further research is warranted to support such assumptions and to examine whether cannabis related ED might be dose dependent. The foregoing conclusions support those of an earlier meta-analysis which examined the relationship between cannabis and ED.
  • Cannabis and the ability to orgasm
    In a study from 2010 researchers found a link between daily cannabis use and difficulty achieving orgasm in men. Interestingly, cannabis use was also linked to increased rates of premature ejaculation in men who participated in the study, probably due to hyper-sensitivity caused by the plant.
  • Altered senses
    According to the American National Institute on Drug Abuse, cannabis can induce a sense of euphoria and then slower reaction time and drowsiness, and such effects might lead to a decreased desire for sex. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mention that cannabis can have a negative effect on the circulatory system by increasing blood pressure and heart rate. Therefore, its use might increase the risk for ED.

 

Cannabis and Erectile Dysfunction


The Company hereby clarifies that the information contained on the website is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical and healthcare advice, and does not constitute medical advice or opinion. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any medical condition or question you may have regarding a medical condition.

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