Cannabis is getting a lot of attention lately, and new research is constantly uncovering new information about how it affects our bodies. Weed can definitely crank up your sex drive, but research also suggests it can damage the reproductive system.
So, how exactly does cannabis affect the male and female reproductive systems?
There is a fair body of research on how cannabis as a recreational substance affects male fertility. Various studies show that cannabis decreases fertility rates in men.
In 2013, a study conducted by researchers at the Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine at the University of Leicester, UK, looked into the role of the endocannabinoid system in male reproductive health.
The study was based on the semen analysis of 86 male patients from a local fertility clinic. The authors of the study found that stimulation of CB1 receptors can decrease sperm speed and viability.
In 2015, the American Journal of Epidemiology published an article on the effect of marijuana on male reproductive health. The study was based on a sample of young Danish men and found that daily cannabis use may have a negative impact on male reproductive health.
Based on the sample, men who reported using cannabis daily showed significantly lower sperm counts and higher levels of testosterone than those who didn’t use cannabis. The study also said cannabis-using males also experienced lower sperm concentrations.
A 2009 study published in the journal of Fertility and Sterility produced similar results. Set at the New York Upstate Medical University, the study was based on a sample of 41 men who had recently visited the clinic for a fertility evaluation.
The study found that THC immediately reduced respiration rates in sperm cells. The researchers stated that THC directly affected the mitochondria in sperm cells, driving down respiration, which could potentially lead to sperm cell damage.
Apart from affecting sperm count and health, cannabis can also impact male testosterone levels. Research from the early 1980s showed that cannabis use temporarily increased testosterone levels. However, the same research also found that cannabis use can cause sudden drops in testosterone and other male sex hormones.
The spike in testosterone tends to last for roughly 20 minutes after first consuming cannabis. Smaller doses were able to keep this spike going for roughly 1 hour.
A solid body of research suggests that cannabis also has negative effects on female fertility.
In 2016, an article in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine took a closer look at the endocannabinoid system and how it affects the female reproductive system.
The article reviewed key literature on this area of study. It showed that careful regulation of the endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in successful reproduction, and that the phytocannabinoids in marijuana may throw off this balance.
The study also noted that there is significant evidence showing that cannabis use may affect a woman’s ability to properly release eggs during the menstrual cycle.
A 2017 study also found that THC can affect the proper development of the fetus. The study, published in Cell Death and Disease, found that THC can affect meiosis, a specific type of cell division, in the ovaries. In doing so, it can directly affect the ovaries’ ability to produce healthy eggs for fertilization.
Note that most of the studies mentioned here were based on small sample data or performed in vitro. One of the few animal-based studies on cannabis and its effects on fertility was performed on monkeys in 1999.
The study, later published in Marijuana and Medicine, looked at reproductive rates in rhesus monkeys after chronically consuming THC for 5 days. The study found that the monkeys had no problem reproducing after the trial.
For now, it seems that research largely suggests that weed can adversely affect fertility. Hence, it’s a good idea to lay off the bud if you’re trying to conceive.