How Marijuana Affects Sex
April 19, 2021 by Justin Lehmiller
April 20th is known by many as 4/20 Day and it’s an unofficial holiday that celebrates all things marijuana (to read up on the history of 4/20 Day, check out this article from VOX). Given that marijuana is going to be a hot topic of conversation this week, let’s take a moment to discuss how it affects sex.
A lot of people use marijuana in one form or another as an aphrodisiac—a tool to boost sexual desire and/or arousal. So what effect does marijuana actually have on people’s sex lives? And how do the sexual effects of marijuana compare to other substances? Here’s what the research says.
Frequent Marijuana Use is Linked to Having More Sex
A large, nationally representative U.S. survey found that the more frequently people smoked marijuana, the more often they got it on. This was true for both men and women. Specifically, frequent marijuana users were having sex about 20% more often on average compared to those who abstained.
What’s not clear from this research, however, is whether this is an effect of the substance itself, or whether marijuana users in general just have different or more relaxed attitudes toward sex. As a result, it’s possible that these folks would be having more sex regardless of whether they were using marijuana. To learn more about this research, check out this article.
Women Who Combine Marijuana and Sex Report Better Orgasms
In a study of nearly 400 adult women in the U.S. who were surveyed about marijuana use and sex, researchers found that a majority of users said that marijuana makes sex more pleasurable and increases sexual desire. Most also reported improvements in sexual pain, and marijuana use more than doubled the odds of reporting satisfying orgasms.
On the basis of this study, the researchers suggested that marijuana should be explored as a potential treatment for sexual difficulties in women. Learn more about this study here.
Marijuana Has Complex Effects on Men’s Sexual Performance
I summarized the extensive body of research on marijuana and male sexual performance in a previous article, and one of the takeaways was that these studies have produced conflicting results. For example, marijuana use is linked to both improved and impaired erections. However, it’s difficult to know what to make of these findings because most studies haven’t controlled for dosage level, marijuana strain, and individual sensitivity to the drug.
This body of research also finds that, while most men report that marijuana enhances sexual satisfaction and heightens sensations, not all men experience this (just as not all women who use marijuana report better orgasms).
So while it’s clear that many people—men and women alike—find that sex is better with marijuana, different people experience different effects because there are a lot of different variables at play here.
Marijuana Has Different Sexual Effects Than Alcohol and Molly
In a study that compared the effects of alcohol and marijuana on sexual function, researchers found a distinct pattern of effects. For example, alcohol was more often linked to having sex with strangers and partners you might not normally go for, whereas marijuana was more often linked to sex with partners who are already well known. This explains, in part, why alcohol was more frequently linked to sexual regret.
Likewise, people were more likely to say the physical sensations of sex were enhanced/heightened with marijuana, whereas they were “numbed” with alcohol. Alcohol was also linked to more physical performance issues.
In addition, while marijuana was more often described as leading to tender and slow sexual experiences, alcohol was linked to more aggressive and intense sex. Learn more about this study here.
In a more recent study, researchers compared the sexual effects of marijuana, alcohol, and molly/ecstasy. The findings largely aligned with the previous study in terms of how alcohol and marijuana compare. However, when you add in the ecstasy comparison, ecstasy is linked to even greater reports of heightened sensitivity than marijuana. Ecstasy is also linked to longer and more intense sexual encounters than marijuana; however, ecstasy (like alcohol) is linked to more reports of sexual performance problems than marijuana.
It’s also worth noting that alcohol and ecstasy are much more likely than marijuana to make people feel attractive, to enhance attractiveness of others, and to make them more outgoing. Learn more about these findings here.
The overall pattern in the data supports the idea that marijuana users, on average, tend to report having more and better sex than people who abstain or use it infrequently. However, there is wide individual variability in how marijuana affects one’s sex life—it makes sex better for some and worse for others. However, marijuana tends to result in fewer sexual difficulties compared to other commonly used substances, such as alcohol and ecstasy.
The key, then, when it comes to understanding how a given substance is likely to affect sex for a given person is to know what you are consuming, how much, and what your body’s general sensitivity is to that substance.
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Image Source: Photo by Gage Walker on Unsplash
Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >