It is Valentine’s Day and many lovers are trading green cannabis flowers for red roses. Marijuana has been reported for centuries as a natural aphrodisiac but government authorities say smoking pot lowers sperm count. With tens of millions of Americans enjoying a golden age of domestic cannabis it is important to get the facts about sex and marijuana.
Back in 2006 I interviewed Dr. Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychiatry at State University of New York (SUNY- Albany) to get the truth about the birds, the bees and the buds.
Chris Goldstein- The ONDCP and DEA would have us believe that pot will decreases a user’s sex drive…at the same time we hear all these reports, even from scientist Carl Sagan, that the best sexual experience in people’s lives are when they smoke marijuana. So does marijuana affect a person’s sex drive?
Dr. Earleywine – It turns out we don’t have a whole lot of data addressing actual desire and we do have are tons and tons of sort of informal clinical reports where people say that sex is certainly enhanced during or right after marijuana use …and so it’s hard to even entertain the idea that somehow your sex drive would drop with long term use.
Chris Goldstein- So when you talk about those anecdotal reports are people saying their sexual experience is enhanced or their sex drive is better?
Dr. Earleywine – We’ve got data from as early as the 1980’s suggesting that the experience is better. Men report seeing themselves as more giving and that people are more sensitive to touch. In part because time is distorted after smoking marijuana people at least seem think that they are spending more time engaged in the sex act. There is a lot of enhanced orgasm reports both in Charlie Tart’s data from 1971 all the way back to ancient Chinese medicine in 200 AD. So I think this is a pretty consistent effect and one that folks like to talk about. I do want to caution that cannabis is not a lubricant…and we do see the drying of the mucus membranes in your eye or anywhere else... I recommend that pople keep that in mind if they are planning sexual contact after using marijuana.
Chris Goldstein- So the red eyes and the cottonmouth isn’t from the smoke itself but this is part of the overall effect of cannabis intoxication?
Dr. Earleywine – In fact all mucus membranes are dryer after cannabis use.
Chris Goldstein- Let's get to a common question: Can smoking or eating cannabis affect sperm count in men?
Dr. Earleywine – There was one study of men living in a hospital who smoked 8 joints per day for 8 days and their sperm count was lower, but certainly not down to the point of sterility. Their sperm count did go back up after they stopped smoking completely. So it is a short-term drop and I guess if I had a client who was having fertility issues then I’d recommend them stopping just to have that extra chance. But it’s nowhere near birth control and that's my fear…that there are some people out there that think that heavy cannabis use is contraception and that is just not the case at all!
Chris Goldstein- What about women; is there anything pointing to marijuana use making it tougher to conceive?
Dr. Earleywine – The only data we have are from studies of women who are having fertility problems – and they have some women in those samples that used cannabis – and they don’t show any difference in an ability to conceive but ironically they do seem to having more sex than the other women in the study.
Chris Goldstein- So we’ve debunked some of these myths, but is smoking pot every time you have sex a good idea?
Dr. Earleywine – I would not say so. I think that the cool thing about sex and relationships is variety in that something as simple as laying on your bed another direction or going into another room of your house can make all this difference. And then really making sure that you get the opportunity talk about it, to praise to your partner for the things you like…Sometimes it can be just as simple as grunting and groaning a little bit more just to get the message across that ‘Yes this feels good.’ And suddenly you find you like this person more and you are willing to talk about positive and negative things more. And the bottom line is yes cannabis can enhance that …but, you know, once in a while is great ...but if you do it every time it’s not special anymore.