As more states begin to legalize marijuana recreationally and medically, more people are turning to this alternative for their health concerns. As of 2021, 34 states have legalized marijuana either for medicinal purposes or recreational use, and as these laws have been loosened, public opinion about marijuana is changing too. It should come as no surprise that marijuana use is on the rise in both older adults and young adults.
As marijuana is more commonly used than any other recreational drug and becomes legal to attain, more studies are being commissioned to fully elucidate its various effects on humans. There's much to be learned as widespread adoption picks up.
How Do We Define Erectile Dysfunction Anyway?
Erectile dysfunction is when a guy has difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection firm enough for penetrative intercourse. It's a fairly common issue among men, impacting an estimated 50% of men over the age of 40 and climbing as we age.
While age is commonly associated with erectile dysfunction, it’s actually more complicated than that, and men of all ages can experience ED. In fact, some estimates put the rate of ED at about 10% for every ten years of life; 20% of guys in their 20's, and so on.
This is because there are so many potential causes for erectile dysfunction. Most commonly, erectile dysfunction is the result of a physical condition interrupting the erection process, but it can be psychological as well. High blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular conditions can all result in erectile dysfunction because of damage to arteries and other factors related to blood flow. However, mental health conditions such as depression, stress, or anxiety are also linked to the development of erectile dysfunction.
While it may be most commonly associated with aging, erectile dysfunction can impact anyone.
Marijuana and Its Effects
Marijuana has long been heralded for its potential medicinal benefits in treating medical disorders. Some of the conditions that marijuana is believed to positively impact – among its acolytes, anyway – include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Chronic pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Hepatitis C
- Multiple sclerosis
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe nausea
With so many medical conditions making the list, and anecdotal evidence to support them all, it's easy to see why the push for legalized medical marijuana has been so strong over the last decade.
While marijuana likely has some therapeutic benefits, it’s more widely used as a recreational drug. This is due to the effects of the primary psychoactive substance, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Whether smoked, eaten, vaporized, or even used in lubrication, THC has a psychoactive effect on the person ingesting it, which will impact the way they think and their perception. THC isn't the only active substance in marijuana, however, and the other commonly discussed cannabinoid in marijuana is cannabidiol (CBD).
Some of the most common effects that marijuana has include:
- Altered sense of time
- Difficulty thinking, focusing, or remembering
- Elevated heart rate
- Feelings of euphoria
- Heightened sensory perception
- Impaired balance, coordination, and movement
- Lowered inhibitions
- Mood changes
- Slower reaction time
Marijuana and Sexual Function
One of the more interesting of the various studies on marijuana demonstrated its impact on the sexual function of women. This study focused on women’s sexual satisfaction, libido, orgasm, lubrication, pain, and overall sexual experience. One third of 373 participants in this study reported using marijuana before engaging in sex and were asked to report their perceptions.
The majority of marijuana users reported experiencing an increase in sex drive, improved orgasms, and a decrease in pain. The only factor that didn’t change was the amount of lubrication produced. Overall the results indicated that women who use marijuana were more than two times as likely to experience a satisfactory orgasm when compared to those who infrequently or did not use marijuana.
While marijuana may have a positive impact on female sexual function and pleasure, the opposite may be true for men. One review concluded that erectile dysfunction was nearly twice as likely in men who used marijuana when compared to those who abstained from the drug. It’s unclear why this is the case, but it’s been attributed to the relaxing effect marijuana has on the brain as well as potential arterial damage from smoking.
When it comes to marijuana and men's sexual function, the list of pros – according to the research so far – is shorter than the cons.
For example, marijuana has the potential not only to lower cholesterol levels, but to potentially help repair some arterial damage. Both of these issues are common in men dealing with erectile dysfunction. Additionally, some studies have found that marijuana can help to improve overall sexual desire and arousal, which when coupled with lowered inhibitions, led to having more sex overall. The list of marijuana pros when it comes to sexual function include:
- A possible benefit in reducing cholesterol and repairing or reducing arterial damage, risk factors for developing ED
- An increase in arousal and sex drive
- Lowered inhibitions around sex
- People that use marijuana engage in more sex on average compared to non-users
Marijuana appears to have a somewhat dramatic effect on the sexual function of men. For starters, similar to tobacco use, when marijuana is smoked it can have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system. Heart rate is elevated and blood pressure can be increased, both associated with erectile dysfunction. Some users mix marijuana with tobacco, which can further this effect. The THC found in marijuana can have a negative impact on nervous system receptors in the penis, which can alter blood flow during an erection. And, the psychoactive effects that marijuana has on the brain can result in men being too relaxed to maintain an erection or orgasm, or so anxious that they suffer from premature ejaculate.
While it’s clear that marijuana (THC and/or CBD) has some health benefits, improving men's sexual function doesn't appear to be one of them. Some cons that may accompany marijuana use in men include:
- Can impact receptors in the penis, impacting blood flow
- Increased anxiety can result in premature ejaculation
- Chronic use can result in an inability to orgasm
- Can have a negative interaction with sildenafil (Viagra®) or other erectile dysfunction medications
- Increased levels of dopamine could result in premature ejaculation
- When mixed with tobacco can have a negative impact on heart, lungs, arteries, and blood flow
- Feelings of euphoria may result in a decreased interest in sex
- Can make men too relaxed to maintain an erection firm enough for sex
- Smoking can lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate
Possible Treatments For Erectile Dysfunction
Depending on the cause of your erectile dysfunction, treatment options can vary.
The first step in assessing your ED symptoms is to talk to a professional about whether your ED could be caused by an underlying medical condition. Diabetes, being overweight, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular conditions like heart disease are all commonly associated with the development of ED. Addressing an underlying medical condition is a good first step in not only improving your overall health but in potentially alleviating the symptoms or severity of ED. It's common for obese men who lose weight to report improved sexual function and libido.
Should your bill of health come back clean, your ED could be caused by a mental health issue. A psychiatrist or mental health professional may be able to help you address stress or anxiety, and they may even be able to prescribe medication to help stabilize or improve your mental health. For some men, marijuana use may actually be a compelling approach to treating anxiety or stress.
Finally, effective and safe medications are available by prescription and at more affordable prices than ever. PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra (sildenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil) have been used by millions of men for over 20 years and have become go-to options for most doctors and guys dealing with ED.
Whatever the cause of your erectile dysfunction, it's rare for symptoms not to be treatable in one way or another.
When it comes to marijuana and sexual function, it seems that THC & CBD's effects may be beneficial for women but are generally detrimental for men. There are a few high-level benefits associated with marijuana use, but overall the negative impacts appear to outweigh the benefits when it comes to guy's sexual function.
Not only is marijuana not likely helpful in most cases of erectile dysfunction, it may even make symptoms worse. There's plenty of research that has yet to be done, but for now the best treatments for erectile dysfunction remain tried-and-true prescription ED medications.
Curious if meds like generic Viagra may be right for you? Get started with the easiest consultation ever. Ordering ED meds is simple with Rex MD – it's all done online, and meds are delivered to your door if approved.
Relationship Between Cannabis Use and Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis - Damiano Pizzol, Jacopo Demurtas, Brendon Stubbs, Pinar Soysal, Corina Mason, Ahmet Turan Isik, Marco Solmi, Lee Smith, Nicola Veronese, 2019