Investigating the Effects of Weed on Testosterone Levels and Sexual Health

Posted by Dr. Michael White, Updated on November 9th, 2021
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Man smoking in dark

There's always been a lot of fear-mongering going on with marijuana. The drug has been demonized over the last century by various groups which benefit from its prohibition. In the previous twenty years, calls for the legalization of weed have made rapid advances. While weed should certainly be made legal throughout the United States, we must continue to evaluate the potential risks associated with the drug, even if research has shown that Cannabis is far safer than most other recreational drugs.

Drug use is a major cause of Low-T among men. Opiates have a potent suppressive effect on Testosterone Production, for example. Chronic use of ibuprofen has also been shown to lower circulating Testosterone. Because Testosterone is so important to male health and function, we need to evaluate any potential mechanisms by which marijuana modulates Testosterone.

Critics of Cannabis have made a lot of noise about the drug's potential risk to fertility and Testosterone Levels. Should you be worried about the possible side-effects associated with marijuana and Low-T? Currently, research makes it unclear exactly how weed affects Testosterone. Some studies say that it lowers Testosterone, while others connect use of the drug with higher levels. It's also important to consider that women also produce and require Testosterone for optimal healthy function. The male and female physiology react to Cannabis in their own unique way, which warrants investigation.

History of Marijuana Legalization and Origins of Research

Marijuana was effectively made illegal in 1937 when the Marihuana Tax Act was passed. This prohibition continued with the Controlled Substances Act in 1969. The legalization of marijuana has been slowly spreading across the United States since the turn of the century. Because of these prohibitions, medical research into the effects, benefits, and risks of marijuana are woefully behind the times.

We didn't even begin to understand the chemical processes which led to the effects of Cannabis until the 1990s. It turns out that the main ingredient that gets us high in marijuana (THC) is very closely related to hormones made by our own bodies. These hormones are now known as endocannabinoids. THC binds to the same receptors as endocannabinoids, leading to various effects associated with smoking weed.

Endocannabinoid Receptors in the Male Reproductive System

These receptors are all over the body, including the vas deferens, prostate, and testes. This means that marijuana undoubtedly has some effect on sexual and reproductive function, even if that effect is ultimately benign. Leydig Cells, which are directly responsible for Testosterone Production, also have these receptors. It's strongly hypothesized that Endocannabinoids play a crucial role in Testosterone Balance. One study in 2001 found that another chemical that binds to these receptors, known as anandamide, lowers Testosterone in mice. This was one of the first studies that raised concerns regarding Weed and Testosterone.

While animal research has produced some evidence that THC can impair Testosterone Production, these studies have not been definitively reproduced in human trials. There's a good chance that, like alcohol, humans have evolved specific mechanisms to process Cannabis which diminish the negative impacts of the drug. 

Chronic Marijuana Use and Testosterone Levels

In 2018, researchers conducted a rather large study to get a glimpse of how Testosterone may be affected by weed. 1577 males were queried regarding their cannabis use and also had blood samples taken to evaluate Testosterone Levels. Researchers found no difference in Testosterone Levels between those that had never tried weed and those that had smoked marijuana at least once. On the other hand, those that had smoked weed recently had higher Testosterone Levels on average.

Cannabis in Denmark

Of course, Testosterone Levels are only one aspect of reproductive health. Another study was conducted in Denmark, involving 1215 participants, all young males. In this study, smoking once a week led to higher Testosterone Levels, but it was also correlated with a 30% drop in sperm count and sperm concentration. So this study suggests that Testosterone improves Testosterone but may suppress fertility. Of course, this increase in Testosterone could be associated with the common use of tobacco along with marijuana. More research is required to discern the specific effect of Cannabis on Testosterone, divorced from conflating factors.

Cannabis and Pregnancy

It's difficult to analyze the effects of weed on pregnancy because of the ethical roadblocks. There's no way to design a study that doesn't potentially put the fetus at risk. Animal research suggests that Cannabis could lead to lower testicular weight in rats and can also lead to suppressed luteinizing hormone and Testosterone Levels.

Cannabis and Sex

While studies have shown that THC increases Testosterone Levels, that doesn't necessarily lead to increased sex drive. Primate and rodent studies provide some evidence that THC at least modestly suppresses libido in these animals, but no research suggests that this is the case in humans. Some research does show that marijuana can increase the risk/prevalence of Erectile Dysfunction/Premature Ejaculation with daily use in men. On the other hand, women found it easier to achieve orgasm and didn't experience apparent negative sexual consequences.

CBD and Testosterone

There's also the question of how CBD products affect Testosterone Levels. Most studies that have been produced regarding marijuana use and hormone balance have investigated the effects of THC on Testosterone. At the same time, there's been sparse research on the impact of the emergent CBD Oil phenomenon. With CBD, there is a very small body of preclinical research to draw from. That research suggests that it's a possibility that CBD can negatively impact fertility and Testosterone in men. This research is far from conclusive, however. These studies have been conducted on animals and in vitro and often involve doses far beyond normal therapeutic/recreational use.

Use Cannabis Conscientiously and Listen to Your Body

While Cannabis should not be used during pregnancy or childhood development, there is no research that suggests that there are long-term sexual dangers associated with the use of marijuana. While regular use of the drug may put a damper on your function in the moment, there is no sign that these effects are permanent. Most research to date simply shows a correlation between smoking week and changes in sexual function, but these changes may result from other confounding factors.

Based on current evidence, there's no reason that you should start or stop using marijuana to protect Testosterone Levels or support sexual health. On the other hand, if you're experiencing sexual health issues, you might want to stop using for a while and see if that improves your situation.

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