Some of us may already know from experience that weed and sex go hand in hand, but recent research now supports this theory. A population-based study by Stanford University's Department of Urology and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (published in November 2017) found a positive link between marijuana use and sexual frequency.
The study included over 50,000 US male and female participants of all economic backgrounds, races, religions, a variety of reproductive ages, and education levels. Results showed that those who used cannabis were also engaging in more sex. Within a four-week period, female users "had significantly higher sexual frequency compared with never users," while men showed that "higher marijuana use was associated with increased coital frequency." Both sexes saw a 15- to 20-percent increase in sexual activity during that trial. And contrary to the negative effects alcohol may have on sexual function (aka "whiskey dick"), marijuana use did not appear to impair function whatsoever.
Results showed that those who used cannabis were also engaging in more sex.
Whether weed enhances or worsens the sexual experience (or any claim about cannabis, really) has been long debated due to the lack of research out there. When you're talking about cannabis, it's important to take into account that it's not a one-size-fits-all plant. There are over 100 known cannabinoids — including THC, CBD, and CBN — all of which react differently in various combinations. So rather than diving into the effects of individual compounds on sex, this Stanford study looked at general cannabis use on sexual behavior. Keep in mind that results were self-reported by participants and there was no placebo group involved.
"That's always my biggest hold-up with the science in this field," neuroscientist Josh Kaplan, PhD, told POPSUGAR. "So much of it is survey-based self-report, which has a high degree of bias and no placebo group. Still, it seems to all go in the positive direction, but I think it doesn't go as far to help convince those who are already skeptical."
Now, whether marijuana directly affects your libido or if it enhances sex to the point that you want to keep engaging in it is still unclear. But what we do know is that high sex can equal better sex for several reasons. Dr Kaplan recently sat on a panel for an event hosted by dosist on cultivating desire through mindful sex and cannabis, and one factor he says that can improve (or worsen) sex is your mood. Leaving thoughts about work, kids, etc. at the door and being fully focused on your partner can sometimes be difficult, and that's something cannabis can absolutely help out with. It can help ease anxiety and stress and better your mood — all things that can lead to quality intimacy with your partner. However, it does take some experimenting to find the best combination of cannabinoids for you.
"One of the problems, though, is that cannabidiol (CBD), through this mechanism of reducing anxiety, can also reduce libido, so it's kind of a double-edged sword," Dr. Kaplan said. "Taking a more balanced approach with CBD and other cannabinoids might be a better option."
For example, we know that THC enhances and heightens our senses. The most well-documented research, according to Dr. Kaplan, comes from THC's ability to amplify smell. Combine that with CBD's reduction of stress and anxiety, and you've got yourself the ideal bedroom conditions. On top of impacting our physical senses, THC can also improve our mood. Amounts of dopamine, or the pleasure chemical in our brains, increases during foreplay and sex.
"If you have chocolate cake, you're like, 'Wow, that was great. I want more of that' — same thing with sex," Dr. Kaplan said. "You get this enhancement of sexual experience which could underline why people who use cannabis engage or frequent sex. When you can find the right cannabinoid composition and right method of consumption, it could have an arousing effect on mood and on desire and so in that sense, it could be really helpful in the leading up process as well as the physical sensation when you're engaging in the experience itself."
Dr. Kaplan recommends experimenting with strains and products with a 1:1 (THC to CBD) ratio or 2:1 to find what works best for you. You may experience adverse effects, such as paranoia and anxiety, with high levels of THC, for instance. Each of our bodies are different, so no one will have the exact same reaction to cannabis. As for which methods are best, he says vaping as opposed to eating edibles or smoking flower. Edibles are more difficult to gauge and have a slower onset than puffing on a vape, which hits your bloodstream instantly without irritating the lungs.
"In adults, there are very little health consequences for trying [marijuana], especially with the more balanced THC and CBD compositions," Dr. Kaplan said. "When you have a more balanced composition, I think there's a lot of benefit if people are struggling in that regard to give it a shot. And even if they're not, I don't always see a problem with trying to enhance an experience if you can do it in a relatively safe manner."