Here’s how marijuana use affects sex drive

Researchers found a “dose-dependent relationship” between marijuana use and intercourse.

Woman with a joint.
Credit: Getty Images.
  • Do you and your lover sometimes have a glass of wine or two to help set the mood? Alcohol, while it can soften inhibitions, may also cause trouble when it comes time to perform, especially for men.
  • Some turn to cannabis as an alternative.
  • Unfortunately, research on how marijuana affects sexual performance is conflicting.

Some studies say it inhibits capability while other say it enhances it. A new, large-scale study finds that marijuana use increases the sex drive and probably doesn't inhibit performance. Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine conducted the study and published their results in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Cannabis has been thought an aphrodisiac in the folk medicine traditions of many cultures throughout history. Today, a small but growing segment in the West are using it to help enhance their sex lives. One California woman is even selling “Sexxpot," a low-THC variety (the psychoactive component) said to increase female sexual desire and pleasure.

A segment of young women today are using marijuana to improve their sex lives. Credit: Getty Images.

As for men, though online forums and advice columns praise it as a “natural Viagra," some studies have found that cannabis may actually inhibit performance. Previous work has also suggested that chronic use inhibits sex drive. A 2009 study found that everyday use may make it difficult for some men to achieve orgasm. While a 2011 review concluded that chronic use may lead to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction.

This new study however seems to undermine the case for inhibited performance or libido. Stanford researchers analyzed the responses of 50,000 Americans who took part in the CDC's National Survey of Family Growth. They looked at the years between 2002 and 2015. Each participant was between ages 25 and 45. The average age for both men and women was actually 29.5.

Respondents indicated how often they smoke marijuana, either monthly, weekly, or daily, and how many times they had sex in the last 12 months. Assistant professor of urology Michael Eisenberg, MD, was the senior author. “Marijuana use is very common," he said. “But its large-scale use and association with sexual frequency hasn't been studied much in a scientific way."


Marijuana use may be growing as acceptance. But studies on how it affects humans in a variety of ways, including sexually, are restricted and sometimes conflicting. Credit: Getty Images.

“What we found," Eisenberg said “was compared to never-users, those who reported daily use had about 20 percent more sex. So over the course of a year, they're having sex maybe 20 more times." Women who didn't smoke pot had sex an average of 6 times per month. While those who were daily users did it 7.1 times per month. With men, non-potheads had sex 5.6 times per month, while daily users did it 6.9 times per month.

According to Eisenberg, “The overall trend we saw applied to people of both sexes and all races, ages, education levels, income groups and religions, every health status, whether they were married or single and whether or not they had kids." Researchers called it a “dose-dependent relationship."

The more people used marijuana, the more sex they had. These findings also alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding performance inhibition. “Frequent marijuana use doesn't seem to impair sexual motivation or performance," Eisenberg said. “If anything, it's associated with increased coital frequency."


Does marijuana increase sex drive or are those who use it less inhibited? Credit: Getty Images.

There are of course, some caveats. For couples who are trying to have children, several studies have found that chronic pot use can cause a man's sperm count to plummet. Toking just once a week can sink the number of swimmers a man has by about a third. There's also still a lingering fear among some experts that chronic use can lead to ED.

It's important to note that the study didn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship, merely a strong correlation. Smoking marijuana doesn't automatically mean you'll be having more sex. There may be another factor or factors that are influencing the two. For instance, those drawn to marijuana may also be less inhibited or thrill-seekers, who are naturally more inclined to seek out sexual encounters.

Eisenberg says he thinks marijuana's positive correlation with intercourse isn't just a tendency among the less-inhibited. He points out that the number of sexual encounters rose steadily with increased use. If these findings prove correct, certain synthesized cannabinoids or elements in marijuana, may someday be used as a medical treatment, to foster libidinous feelings in those who find that their desire has waned. Eisenberg cautions, "We don't want people to smoke to improve sexual function." But he admits, “it probably doesn't hurt things."

To learn how a segment of young women using marijuana to improve their sex lives, click here:

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