Introduction to medical marijuana
As marijuana (cannabis) has become legal in many states, more people are becoming curious about the possible medical benefits of this formerly illegal drug. In some states, cannabis is only legal if used for medical purposes, which can include pain relief, nausea, weight loss, and nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s disease. (1)
If you’ve never used cannabis, the terms can be confusing. What is the difference between marijuana and cannabis, and what’s the big deal about CBD oil and THC compounds?
Marijuana and cannabis are often used as interchangeable terms, but they technically mean different things. Cannabis can refer to any product from the cannabis sativa plant, the tall green plant with its iconic finger-like leaves. Marijuana, on the other hand, is defined by the US Government as cannabis products that contain substantial amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (2). THC is the substance that causes the “high” in recreational weed use, and if consumed in large amounts can lead to hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis. (3)
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the other major compound found in cannabis. But unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t cause a high. This makes it appealing to those who want to test the benefits of cannabis without the risk of getting high, and the World Health Organization has not found any evidence of abuse potential or addiction for CBD (4).
Because CBD doesn’t cause a high, products containing just CBD can be found in many places without a prescription, while THC-containing medical marijuana will usually require a doctor’s prescription.
Can CBD or medical marijuana benefit your sex life?
As CBD-infused products have become common, makers of aphrodisiacs and lubricants have jumped on board, touting CBD’s abilities for pain and stress relief as making sex more pleasurable whether you suffer from anxiety in the bedroom or painful sex. CBD products are thought to boost pleasure receptors, making sex more fun and heightening the sensations of intercourse. Personal lubricants with CBD are thought to be helpful if sex is painful (5). Always remember that CBD products are not evaluated for effectiveness by the FDA, so do your research before purchasing. (6)
What about erectile dysfunction? Since we know that ED can have a mental dimension, a product that relaxes your mind may be beneficial in allowing you to relax and enjoy the moment. (7) But, there is still much research that needs to be done, as studies are contradictory and experts are divided. (8)
Cautions for ED and cannabis
If considering medical marijuana, you should be aware that THC is thought to interfere with the smooth muscle in the penis called the corpus cavernosum. When the corpus cavernosum relaxes, it allows for increased blood flow so you can get an erection. THC is thought to prevent this relaxation, causing or contributing to ED (9). Keep this in mind if discussing a possible medical marijuana prescription with your doctor.
Maybe most importantly if you’re already on a prescription for an ED medication, are there known interactions between ED meds and cannabis you need to be aware of before trying even over-the-counter CBD supplements?
Both Viagra (sildanafil) and cannabis lower blood pressure which causes the heart to work harder to compensate. In a 2002 case report of a 41 year old man who suffered a heart attack after taking Viagra and smoking cannabis at the same time, it was determined that the CBD in cannabis may have increased the effects of Viagra, causing the man’s blood pressure to drop to a dangerously low level. (10) The bottom line? Talk to your doctor and use caution before using recreational or medical marijuana with ED medications.
Right now there are many differing opinions in the medical community on the effectiveness of medical marijuana for sexual heath. There is evidence that THC and CBD can affect ED and cause dangerous interactions with ED medications. As always, the wisest thing to do is talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to a qualified expert on medical marijuana who can discuss the latest research with you and propose a treatment plan based on their expertise in the field.