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Marijuana and Erectile Dysfunction: What You Need to Know

Mary Lucas, RN

Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 5/5/2020

In the wake of a huge number of marijuana initiatives, marijuana is now legal in 33 states, 10 of which allow it for recreational use.

More than 11 million people used marijuana in the United States in 2015, 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 US, medical marijuana is commonly used for pain control. Expert sources such as the Harvard Health Blog note that while it isn’t strong enough for severe pain, it’s fairly effective as a treatment for the chronic pain that affects millions of Americans every year.

Like most drugs, however, marijuana has both direct effects and side effects. Its short-term effects include relief from pain, altered senses, changes in mood, difficulty thinking and some impairment of movement.

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 increased risk of ED, or erectile dysfunction. However, the science behind this link is mixed, with some studies showing that marijuana reduces sexual performance and others indicating the opposite.  

Below, we’ve looked at the link between marijuana and erectile dysfunction in more detail, as well as marijuana’s effects on your general sexual health and wellbeing.

Marijuana and Sex: The Data

Like with many things marijuana-related, the jury is still out on what marijuana can do to affect your sexual experience.

Many marijuana users report feeling more interested in sex after smoking marijuana or eating marijuana edibles. Some also report enjoying sex more when stoned.

It’s important to remember that these are mostly anecdotal claims. However, there is a limited amount of research into marijuana’s effects on sexual enjoyment:

  • For women, marijuana might make sex more enjoyable. In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found that women who used marijuana prior to sex reported increases in sex drive, improvement in orgasm and a decrease in pain.

  • Another recent study from 2017 indicates that marijuana use could be correlated with an increase in sexual desire. The study, which involved more than 50,000 men and women, found that marijuana use is “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, marijuana’s effects on sexual function “warrant further study.”

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Beyond its effects on sexual enjoyment, marijuana can have a variety of effects on your heart health and cardiovascular function, both of which are important for optimal sexual performance in men:

  • When it’s smoked, marijuana delivers many of the same substances found in tobacco smoke into the body. Many of these 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 cause an increase in systolic blood pressure. Since high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction are closely linked, this is worth keeping in mind if you’re concerned about your sexual performance.

  • On the other hand, marijuana might be helpful in preventing hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol. In a 2013 study, researchers found that some chemicals in marijuana may help to reduce damage to the cardiovascular system by high cholesterol.

    Since high cholesterol and other cardiovascular issues are closely linked to ED, this is an interesting finding. However, it’s worth noting that this study was performed on mice and not humans, meaning its findings might not be completely applicable.

Finally, there are some studies that directly link marijuana usage with erectile dysfunction, as well as other sexual performance issues:

  • In a 2011 review of study data, researchers stated that marijuana could stimulate some receptors in the tissue of the penis, potentially contributing to erectile dysfunction while the chemicals in marijuana are still active in the body.

  • In a 2010 study, researchers found a link between marijuana use and difficulty achieving orgasm in men. Interestingly, marijuana use was also linked to increased rates of PE, or premature ejacualation, in men who participated in the study.

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Marijuana and Erectile Dysfunction Treatments

Medications like Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil) are wisely used to treat erectile dysfunction. These medications work by making it easier for blood to flow into the penis and fill the soft, erectile tissue that’s necessary for an erection.

Because marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, research into its potential interactions with Viagra and other ED medications is limited.

There have been isolated reports of marijuana interacting with sildenafil(generic Viagra), the active ingredient in Viagra. This could potentially increase the effects of sildenafil on the cardiovascular system. In one case, a person experienced a heart attack after taking sildenafil and smoking marijuana.

Marijuana can also interact with several other common medication types, including psychiatric medications, blood thinners, asthma medications, antiretroviral drugs and substances such as alcohol.

If you experience erectile dysfunction after smoking marijuana or eating a marijuana edible, you should not use Viagra or any other ED medications without a prescription or against the advice of your doctor. Instead, contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms and treatment options.

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Our Final Word

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 indicate that it’s linked to erectile dysfunction and other issues. On the whole, there just isn’t enough study data available right now to provide a firm, definitive conclusion.

If you experience erectile dysfunction after using marijuana, contact your doctor. You might be able to improve your sexual performance by changing your marijuana consumption habits and making other changes to your diet, habits and lifestyle.

Interested in learning more about erectile dysfunction? Our guide to the most effective ED treatment options goes into greater detail on how you can treat ED and enhance your sexual performance using medical and non-medical treatments.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.