Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
In the wake of a huge number of marijuana initiatives, marijuana is now legal in 37 states, three territories and the District of Columbia, with 19 states allowing recreational use.
More than 11 million people used marijuana in the United States in 2018, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In short, marijuana -- whether it’s used for medical or recreational purposes -- is extremely common.
In the United States, medical marijuana is often used for pain control. Reliable Sources such as Harvard Medical School note that while marijuana isn’t strong enough to reduce severe pain, it’s fairly effective as a treatment for chronic pain that affects millions of Americans every year.
Like most recreational drugs, marijuana has both positive effects and potential side effects. The direct effects of marijuana include relief from pain, altered senses, changes in your mood and a degree of impairment in thinking and functioning.
Most of these are the result of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the most significant active chemical in marijuana.
Marijuana is also associated with some sexual side effects, including an elevated risk of erectile dysfunction (ED). However, the scientific research behind this link is mixed, with certain studies suggesting that marijuana reduces sexual performance and others the opposite.
If you use marijuana regularly, either as a form of medicine or for recreation, it’s important to be aware of how it may affect your sexual functioning.
Below, we’ve looked into the potential link between marijuana and ED in more detail, as well as marijuana’s other effects on your sex drive and general sexual behavior.
Before we get into the details of marijuana and sex, it’s important to quickly go over the basics of how marijuana actually affects your body.
Most of marijuana’s psychoactive effects -- meaning the effects that change the way your brain functions -- are caused by a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
When you use marijuana, THC travels through your bloodstream to your brain, where it acts on specific receptors. These receptors affect several aspects of your thoughts and mood, causing the “high” that’s associated with marijuana use.
The amount of time that’s required for THC to have an effect on your mood varies based on how you consume marijuana. When marijuana is eaten, it may take 30 to 60 minutes before you can feel its effects.
Common effects of marijuana use include:
An altered sense of time
Changes in your senses (for example, being able to see colors differently)
Impaired memory, movement and thinking
Changes in your moods and feelings
When marijuana is consumed in high doses or at a high level of potency, it can also contribute to hallucinations, delusions and psychosis.
Although marijuana only causes noticeable effects in the short term, it can also have long-term effects on certain parts of your body.
For example, research suggests that long-term marijuana use is associated with a reduction in your ability to think, form memories and learn new functions. Marijuana may also affect the way that your brain develops connections.
In addition to affecting your brain, marijuana can also affect your body. Marijuana use can cause lung irritation, which may result in breathing problems. It can also contribute to a high heart rate that may persist for several hours after smoking.
Other physical issues associated with marijuana use include nausea, vomiting and, in women, a higher risk of problems associated with child development during and after pregnancy.
So, what do these effects have to do with marijuana and sex? Can smoking weed cause erectile dysfunction? Like with lots of other things related to marijuana consumption, the jury is currently out on whether frequency of marijuana use is associated with sexual issues.
Many marijuana users report feeling more interested in having sex after smoking marijuana or eating marijuana edibles. Some also report that they enjoy sexual encounters more when they feel stoned.
However, others report issues with sexual performance after smoking, including “weed dick” -- one of many terms for marijuana-related ED.
It’s important to keep in mind that most of the sex-related claims you hear about or read online regarding marijuana are anecdotal, meaning they shouldn’t be treated as proven side effects or benefits.
However, over the decades, several researchers have looked into marijuana’s potential effects on sex, including the possible link between marijuana and erectile function.
Overall, research findings on marijuana and sex are mixed. For example, one study published in 2017 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that marijuana may be correlated with an increase in sexual desire.
The study, which used of survey data from more than 50,000 men and women, found that use of marijuana was “independently associated with increased sexual frequency.”
The study also noted that marijuana use did not appear to impair sexual function in the men and women surveyed.
The researchers concluded that although the findings were reassuring, the effects of marijuana on sexual function “warrant further study.”
Other research has found that marijuana use may make sex more enjoyable for women. In one study published in Sexual Medicine in 2019, researchers found that women who reported using marijuana prior to sex reported increases in sex drive, improved orgasms and less pain.
However, not all scientific findings about marijuana and sex are positive. Although the potential link between marijuana use and erectile dysfunction isn’t crystal clear, some research suggests that marijuana may have a negative effect on parts of the body responsible for erections.
Before we get into specifics, let’s briefly explain how erections work. Healthy erections are, to a large extent, all about blood flow. When you feel aroused, blood flows to your penis, causing the erectile tissue to expand and become firmer.
After you reach orgasm and ejaculate, the same process occurs in reverse, causing you to lose your erection and enter your refractory period.
Several studies have found that marijuana use may affect your cardiovascular system, an issue that could affect blood flow to your penis and erectile function.
For example, marijuana contains many of the same substances as tobacco, which can pass into your body when it’s smoked. Many of these substances can harm your heart and lungs over the long term, potentially increasing your risk of developing cardiovascular health issues.
In the short term, marijuana can also cause an increase in systolic blood pressure. High blood pressure is linked to erectile dysfunction, meaning you may find it harder to get an erection after smoking marijuana.
Other research has found a more direct association between marijuana use and sexual function issues such as ED.
For example, in a 2011 review of study data, researchers stated that marijuana could stimulate certain receptors in the tissue of the penis, potentially contributing to erectile dysfunction while the chemicals in marijuana are still active in the body.
Another study, published in 2010, found a link between marijuana use and difficulty achieving orgasm in men. Interestingly, marijuana use was also associated with elevated rates of PE, or premature ejaculation, in men who participated in the study.
Research into other sexual effects of marijuana is limited right now, meaning we don’t yet have much data on how weed affects other aspects of sex.
However, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, which used data from more than 200 online questionnaire participants, suggests that most people who use marijuana before sex have positive or neutral results.
According to the study, 38 percent of respondents said that sex was more enjoyable after using marijuana, while only 4.7 percent said it was worse. Participants reported feeling more sensitive to touch after using marijuana, having stronger orgasms and feeling more interested in sex.
However, it’s worth noting that some participants reported sexual performance issues, including difficulty reaching orgasm while under the influence of marijuana.
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ED medications are safe and effective for most men. However, like other medications, they can cause drug interactions when they’re used with other medications, recreational drugs and other substances.
Because marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, research into its potential interactions with Viagra and other ED medications is currently limited.
There have been isolated case reports of marijuana interacting with sildenafil. For example, a report published in the journal Clinical Cardiology in 2006 states that marijuana can inhibit the isoenzyme cytochrome P450 3A4, which is involved in the metabolization of sildenafil.
This effect on cytochrome P450 3A4 could potentially increase the effects of sildenafil on the cardiovascular system and contribute to an elevated risk of side effects if the two substances are used together.
To reduce your risk of experiencing drug interactions, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before using any ED medications if you often consume marijuana. They’ll be able to inform you about how you can treat erectile dysfunction safely.
Marijuana can also cause interactions when it’s used with other medications, including several common over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Because it affects multiple enzymes, marijuana can potentially affect a large range of common medications, including drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety and depression.
It can also interact with medications prescribed to treat certain allergies, cardiovascular health issues, viral infections and other issues.
It’s important to inform your healthcare provider that you use marijuana when discussing other medications, including medications sold over the counter.
Does weed cause ED? Can being high affect your erections and sexual function? Right now, we don’t have all the answers about the impact of marijuana on sexual health, but we’re finding out more at a rapid pace.
Both medical and recreational marijuana have only been legal for a short period of time and in a select few states. Because of this, research on marijuana’s effects on male sexual performance is very limited, with only a few large-scale studies available from which to draw data.
Right now, some studies indicate that marijuana can have positive effects on sexual enjoyment, while others suggest that it’s linked to erectile dysfunction and other sexual health issues.
On the whole, there just isn’t enough high quality scientific evidence available right now to give a firm, definitive conclusion on whether weed is good or bad for your sex life.
If you experience erectile dysfunction after using marijuana, it’s best to talk with your healthcare provider. You may be able to improve your sexual function by cutting back on marijuana prior to sex, taking days off from weed or making other changes to your habits and daily lifestyle.