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Are They Good Bedfellows?

With the legalization of marijuana around the corner and dispensaries already on almost every corner, many folks are more openly considering cannabis for multiple purposes. Managing anxiety, pain reduction, slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s, treating glaucoma and controlling seizures are already proven benefits of cannabis use. Many folks have also extolled the virtues of marijuana when it comes to sex.

There is not much research on the effects of marijuana on sex. Since it is still an illegal substance and much research relies on government grants for its sustenance, there is much more anecdotal and informal research than formalized studies on cannabis and sex. For example, an informal poll by Psychology Today found that 67 percent felt that cannabis enhanced their sex lives in some way.

As In All Things: It Depends  And in the same Psychology Today study, 20 percent concluded that the effects all depended on the circumstances. There are many factors at play: how does cannabis usually affect you? Do you take it for other conditions? Do you consume it regularly or infrequently? How do you consume it? Smoking, vaping, ingesting or topical? Which of the many strains do you consume? Is it more THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol )  or CBD (Cannabidiol)?

In general, it is believed that the Indica strain is more relaxing in the body, which is great if you need to chill and let the day go in order to fully receive and give pleasure. Sativa tends to affect people as more of a stimulant in the brain with a euphoric, energized and pleasant feeling. Some people respond well to a mix of both. Most cannabis users would suggest experimenting with different strains to see which fits your general constitution and overall emotional baseline.

And then there are different ways to consume. Smoking is the most common. The effects begin and fade quickly, and there are side effects of coughing and health effects of smoke inhalation.  Vaporizing heats up the marijuana without creating smoke so it is easier on the lungs and also quite quick to take effect. Ingestible oils usually come in pill format and because they go through the digestive system, take longer to absorb and remain in your system for longer.  Edibles are baked items that also go through the digestive system with a little less accuracy in terms of dosage. Edibles tend to be less euphoric in effect and more relaxing. And if you don’t like the ride, it takes a while to get off. Tinctures and sprays are applied under the tongue or in the mouth and can act quickly with very specific controlled dosages.  Topical applications, such as cannabis lubricant applied to the vagina can have more localized effects rather than full-bodied ones. They can make our body parts also taste and smell like weed — which can also be an aphrodisiac! The type of consumption will affect the product’s specific effects and duration.

Reproductive Effects: An inability to get or maintain an erection can also be a side effect, especially with large amounts consumed and with products high in THC.  Several studies have concluded that frequent cannabis consumption seems to depress testosterone and sperm count. Although it does not make it a contraceptive, you may want to lay off the alcohol and the cannabis when trying to conceive. And once conception happens, cannabis can cross through the placenta into the fetus and also be present in breast milk. There are few studies on cannabis’ effects on fetuses and babies. You may not want to take the risk.

Improved Sexual Functioning On the flip side, many folks report feeling more pleasure and physical sensations as well as overall euphoria with cannabis use. Many state that they feel longer and more intense sexual encounters, although time does stand a little more still when consuming marijuana, so it may be a matter of perception rather than reality.  And because marijuana tends to slow us down, our loss of focus can be a good or bad thing: good for those of us who need to slow down our minds and stop multitasking and be present; not so good for those who have a hard time focusing, especially on the specific techniques of pleasure. And finally, the cotton-mouth syndrome where mucous membranes dry out means that vaginas also dry out. Fortunately commercial lubricants can fill in the need.

Increased Libido: A few studies have confirmed that cannabis can increase one’s libido. One in 1970 in particular suggests that frequent but not heavy use is the key for 50 percent of its respondents in feeling friskier and in 70 percent of them more pleasure.

Reduced Inhibition: Some folks use cannabis to calm and manage their anxiety. For those who feel anxious about sex (performance anxiety, negative body image, receiving pleasure) it can help folks to reduce their inhibitions in similar ways that alcohol does. And for those who need to let go of their life stresses, worries and frustrations, marijuana’s relaxation effects might help folks to also be present and enjoy the moment.  Of course, it also can blur the lines of consent and lead to more risky behaviours such as not practicing safer sex, but again, the recommendation is generally to consume in small doses.   

Is It For You? Overall, many but not all people report enjoying sex combined with cannabis.  Your experience will depend on your experience with it, the strain consumed, the manner of consumption and what else you are consuming at the same time. Like alcohol, results can vary, and moderation tends to produce more positive effects than overindulgence. The general advice is that if you wish to try it, start with small quantities and stop when you hit a buzz rather than a high.  It seems like regular smokers gain more benefits than infrequent smokers, but that also might have more to do with comfort level.  Overall it also seems like a lower THC content, such as 14 percent, is better than a higher more common one. But you need to be the judge. And of course, you should discuss your own health with your healthcare provider and consider any long-term negative impacts of cannabis on your body.  The experience of using marijuana with sex may leave you feeling more connected and with more pleasure than without. But it might not. And if you absolutely need to consume cannabis in order to have sex or enjoy sex on an emotional level, then cannabis is possibly not a healthy option. It may be more worthwhile to spend your money and time in therapy and get to the root of any barriers to pleasure. As in many things, there is no absolute right or wrong, only your truth.

Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality shop and workshop centre in Toronto. If you have questions or comments, email carlyle@goodforher.com or go online to goodforher.com