Marijuana Use and Erectile Dysfunction: A Cause for Concern?

Also known as ED, erectile dysfunction has been recognized as a major issue amongst men since the 1990s. If you suffer from it, your first instinct is to remain silent. After all, for generations, we have associated ED with a lack of masculinity. In reality, the condition is more nuanced than that. It can happen for a variety of reasons, but is more prevalent in men as they get older.

The 1994 Massachusetts Male Aging Study reported a startling statistic: Prevalence of ED was 52%! Around 40% of men aged 40+ experienced ED at some point; a figure that increases to 70% amongst men aged 70+. Complete ED affected 5% of 40+ men, and 15% of 70+ men.

Is ‘Weed Dick’ a Thing?

This crude term refers to the notion of marijuana causing ED. As is the case with most things related to weed, there are two very different takes on the issue. Some claim that cannabis kills erections, while others, like Harvard M.D. Dr. Jordan Tishler, believe it can be a boon to men with erectile dysfunction when consumed in sensible doses.

Erection Education

Before we go any further, let’s begin with an uncomfortable (but brief) outline of the science of erections. An erection comes from the relaxation of the smooth muscle of the corpus cavernosum (either of the two masses of erectile tissue that form the main portion of the clitoris or penis). When this muscle is relaxed, blood flow is increased, which leads to an erection. If you have ED, your smooth muscle is NOT relaxing.
Drugs such as Viagra work by boosting relaxation and helping your erection last longer. Many things must happen before the smooth muscle reaches a state of relaxation. First of all, your penis cells get sensory input from sexual stimulation or from signals that begin in the brain. Once these cells are activated, nitric oxide (a gas) is produced.

The gas becomes a signaling messenger to various targets such as cGMP, an enzyme that needs to be activated before an erection is possible. After the cessation of nitric oxide production, the enzyme becomes inactive, the smooth muscle no longer relaxes, and you wave goodbye to your erection.

How Does Marijuana Impact the Penis?

Cannabinoids such as THC activate cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, especially the brain. When THC activates these receptors in the brain, it provides you with the famous psychoactive effects, but it also impacts the rest of the body in ways you can’t even imagine. THC, in particular, can have a profound effect on the human body when it hits the bloodstream, and especially the male penis.

It is here where the impact of weed on the penis, most pertinently erections, results in a divergence of opinion. A 1982 study by Cohen, published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, suggested that marijuana use was bad for erections. According to Cohen’s research, men who used weed daily had twice the prevalence of ED as non-users.

A more recent study, by Aversa et al. in 2008, published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, claimed that regular cannabis use was associated with dysfunction in the cells of the corpus cavernosum responsible for producing nitric oxide. When production of this gas is decreased, you can forget about having an erection, let alone sustaining one.

While these studies were bad news for men who love marijuana, there are numerous problems with this form of research. The main issue is that studies tend to take a broad look at the sexual response including excitement, desire, and behavior. It is folly to believe you can find a group of men and expect the same levels of arousal by exposing them to the same things. One man’s goddess is another man’s passion killer!

In the 1990s, researchers attempted to circumnavigate this problem by creating the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF). The purpose of the IIEF was to compare the sexual function spectrum and ED objectively. For instance, it was now possible to compare IIEF scores between men who used cannabis and those who did not.

A study by Kumsar et al., published in the First International Journal of Andrology in 2016, found that weed users and non-users had similar IIEF scores. However, those who used cannabis were still more likely to have severe erectile dysfunction than men who abstained from pot.

So, It’s All Bad News Then?

Not at all! The entire issue is extremely confusing because there is ample research which suggests cannabis is potentially good for men with ED. A longitudinal study by Halikas et al. was published in the International Journal of the Addictions in 1985. The study focused on 100 regular weed users from 1968-1970. The research team was able to locate and interview 97 of them 6-8 years later. A significant number of weed users said that cannabis enhanced their sexual experience.

A report, once again involving James Halikas, was published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2012. In it, the authors determined that a majority of males viewed marijuana as a ‘sexual stimulant.’ The report mentioned Halikas’ 1985 study but also focused on other studies over the previous 15 years. It discovered that men who used marijuana believed it increased their desire to have sexual intercourse. On the downside, the report also noted that there was evidence of cannabis use causing reduced sperm count, potency problems, and reduced levels of testosterone.

Although Dr. Tishler noted these concerns, he is adamant that almost all sexual issues, in men and women, respond well when treated with cannabis. Issues include ED, low libido, and premature ejaculation. He was keen to point out that dosage was all-important. According to Dr. Tishler, it is tough to keep an erection “when your head is orbiting Jupiter.”

His advice is to be wary of the dose, because it is a personal thing. As you know, we all have different reactions to weed, as well as varying tolerance levels. Overall, Dr. Tishler said that low doses were ideal for men, while women can handle higher doses. He also believes that inhalation through vaping is the best method of consumption because sharing a vape makes for good foreplay, and is less likely to burn down the house!

Final Thoughts on Marijuana & Erectile Dysfunction

Although research into the topic is relatively limited, it does seem likely that excessive consumption is likely to cause more harm than good to your erection. If you have ED and are looking for something to breathe new life into your sexual experiences, consider using a low dose of weed.

Although Dr. Tishler recommends vaping, he is also happy for men to use topicals although it can take longer for the effects to kick in. Products such as CannaMojo have recently been created to help treat ED, and they are selling well. Proponents claim that THC-infused sex supplements provide results akin to what Viagra promises, only with fewer side effects. Availability of these products is limited at present, but as the market grows and more men look for solutions to the erectile dysfunction problems, we expect more options to become available.

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