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Cannabis and the Libido

Patients often ask us whether cannabis affects the libido. Most of our patients are seniors, and are less concerned with the long-term effects of cannabis use on sexual function and more concerned with whether cannabis can increase libido.

Like all things cannabis, the answer is a resounding…it depends.

The History

Cannabis has long been used an aphrodisiac. Ayurvedic medicine recommends cannabis to increase libido, delay orgasm, facilitate lubrication, and loosen inhibitions. Bhang, a preparation of cannabis that is traditionally used in food and drink in India, has been used as an intoxicant for centuries.  Sadhus and Sufis use bhang to achieve transcendental states and to aid spiritual ecstasy. Tantric sex practitioners use bhang to enhance sexual experiences.

Dating back two centuries in Serbia, female virgins ate a mixture of lamb's fat and cannabis on their wedding night. Cultures across the Middle East and North Africa have used cannabis to enhance pleasure.

Cannabis seems to both postpone and lengthen orgasm and to increase physical sensitivity. Is there is any scientific data to support the use of cannabis to increase libido? Yes, and no.

The Data

Unfortunately, there are surprisingly few studies. A report published in 1984 stated that, of 97 adults interviewed in Kansas City, approximately 65 reported increased sexual pleasure and satisfaction with cannabis use, and roughly 30 men and 30 women also reported increased sexual desire, emotional closeness, and an increased enjoyment of physical contact. However, one-third of the respondents stated that cannabis did not enhance sexual relations or physical contact. [Weller, RA and JA Halikas, "Marijuana Use and Sexual Behavior," Journal of Sex Research (1984) 20:186.]

In a 2003 Canadian study conducted in Toronto, researchers interviewed 104 adults about their reactions to cannabis. When asked whether cannabis increased libido, 25% stated that it often did, 40% that it sometimes did, and about 33% stated that it seldom increase libido. Roughly half of the participants stated that cannabis was sex-enhancing; the other half said it was not. [Hathaway, AD, "Cannabis Effects and Dependency Concerns in Long-Term Frequent Users," Addiction Research and Theory (2003) 11:441]

Another Canadian study in 2008 included 41 adults, half of whom stated that cannabis increased libido and sensitivity to touch, and enhanced erotic pleasure; the other half stated that it did not. [Osborne G Band C Fogel. "Understanding the Motivations for Recreational Marijuana UseAmong Canadians," Substance Use and Misuse (2008) 43:539]

When tallied, the results of these studies align with what we already know—that cannabis is a complex plant with almost an unlimited potential for variation, and with the potential to affect users in vastly different ways. Cannabis can intensify sexual experiences, enhance libido, increase sensitivity, and lower inhibitions. But it can also cause users to feel disinterested in sex, too lethargic for sex, or too self-conscious to enjoy sex.

The Products

There are a couple of products available now that market directly to this issue:

Foria is a lubricant made from MCT oil (a derivative of coconut oil) and cannabis extract.  The lubricant, according to the product web site, is inspired by “the historical use of cannabis as anaphrodisiac in traditional cultures around the world.”

MCT has a naturally low pH that is good for skin care and for maintaining a healthy vaginal pH, which is necessary for preventing unwanted yeasts and bacteria.

  • Advantages -Available in California -Available to buy online (with a valid cannabis recommendation) -Lab-tested -Scent-free -Consistent dosing with 2.5mg per spray

  • Disadvantages: -Not compatible with latex products, including latex condoms -Expensive (between $3-$4 per milliliter) 

See the Foria web site for more information:

Sexxpot is a low-THC cannabis strain that is grown, packaged, and branded by Karyn Wagner, founder of Paradigm Medical Marijuana. She markets Sexxpot as an"aphrodisiac weed" and specifically targets women. Sexxpot contains about 14% THC, slightly lower than many other strains. Wagner states that a lower level of THC can produce sensual affects without impairing the user or reducing the desire for sexual activity.

  • Advantages -Available in California -Easy to use -Immediate onset of effects

  • Disadvantages -Adverse effects of THC include anxiety and fatigue, which may decrease feelings of arousal

The Conclusion

We know that cannabis can heighten senses, provide relaxation, and increase the feeling of connectivity. And, according to William Novak, author of High Culture: Marijuana in the Lives of Americans, the effects of cannabis can be detected in some of the same areas of the brain as sexual arousal.

The data from available studies confirms that cannabis is pharmacologically unique. For example, the sexual effects of other mood-altering drug—including alcohol, amphetamines, antidepressants, cocaine, and narcotics—are well-documented, consistent, and uncontroversial. The sexual effects of cannabis, however, are highly unpredictable, from strongly sex-inhibiting to strongly sex-enhancing. Some people state that cannabis causes them to turn inward and lose their sense of connection to their partner. Others state that cannabis increases desire, facilitates sensuality, makes them feel closer to their partner, and enhances pleasure and satisfaction.

Of course, each strain of cannabis has a unique cannabinoid and terpene profile, so you’re likely to feel a different set of effects from one strain to another. Blackberry Kush may put you to sleep, Blue Dream may compel you to clean the garage, and Green Dragon may put you in the mood for intimacy.

Or not.  

But it worked for Carl Sagan.

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