Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem that plagues millions of men of all ages. We know that smoking cigarettes causes ED, and as marijuana legalization becomes more common, more and more men are asking what effects it can have on their ability to achieve and maintain an erection. Unfortunately, the science is limited and conflicted, making the answer complicated.
First, a disclaimer: don’t do drugs. Also, stay in school. And while we’re at it, call your mother; she worries. But seriously, it’s important to note that marijuana is a drug, and just like alcohol, Tylenol, cocaine or Viagra, it can affect your body in many different ways. If you are going to use any drug, please make sure your doctor knows about it. There are hundreds of prescription medications that can contribute to ED, and being upfront and honest with us is the only way we can help you. And we can usually tell when you’re lying.
As I’ve said before, ED is a medical condition in which a man cannot achieve or sustain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. It affects a lot of men; up to 39 percent of men experience ED in their 40s, and nearly all men over 70 have some difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. The good news is that ED is usually very responsive to treatment. Conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, low testosterone and obesity contribute to ED, and so do behaviors like tobacco use, and a lack of exercise. By treating these conditions, modifying behavior and/or working to rehabilitate the erectile tissue, we can effectively treat nearly all instances of ED.
I’ll give you the bad news first. Marijuana use has been shown to lower testosterone levels, and low-T can contribute to ED. Marijuana use has also been associated with orgasm-related problems (both premature ejaculation and inability to achieve orgasm). Likewise, a 2010 study published in the Journal European Urology found that marijuana may contribute to ED by inhibiting the nervous system response that causes an erection in the first place.
Now for the good news: like many other conditions, psychology can also play an important role in erectile dysfunction. Men who suffer from ED often get performance anxiety, and this anxiety can make it even harder (pardon the pun) to achieve a sufficient erection. That’s where marijuana comes in. Absent an underlying medical condition, marijuana can help some men relax and overcome their performance anxiety, which can help them achieve an erection.
Because so many factors can contribute to ED, it’s hard to say whether marijuana use will help or hinder an individual’s ability to get and keep an erection. A review of the scientific literature shows that it can have both effects in certain circumstances. There is enough evidence that marijuana can contribute to ED that I recommend against using it as a sexual aid.
Here’s the bottom line: avoiding tobacco and alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight will help prevent ED. Marijuana doesn’t cause ED in the same way as cigarettes, but it can still contribute to the condition.
Many causes of ED are pretty simple to address, but others have serious implications for your health. The only way to know what’s causing ED is to consult your doctor, and when you do, your health (and your sex life) will be better off because of it.