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More-frequent pot smoking found to correlate with more frequent sexual intercourse

The jury’s still out on rock ’n’ roll. But the link between sex and at least one drug, marijuana, has been confirmed.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 20 million adult Americans are current marijuana users -- a number climbing steadily now that pot is legal for medical or recreational use in 29 states. But despite its growing status as a recreational drug, marijuana’s status as a procreational drug remains ambiguous.

On one hand, there are reports of erectile dysfunction in heavy users, and rigorous studies have found reduced sperm counts in men who smoke it. On the other hand, experiments conducted in animal models and humans indicate that marijuana stimulates activity in brain regions involved in sexual arousal and activity.

Now, a new study indicates that despite concerns among physicians and scientists that frequent marijuana use may impair sexual desire or performance, the opposite appears more likely to be the case.

Stanford urologist Mike Eisenberg, MD, who does a lot of big-data analyses, looked at responses of more than 50,000 Americans ages 25 to 45 to questions on a long-running U.S. government survey, the National Survey of Family Growth. The resulting study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, is the first ever to examine the relationship between marijuana use and frequency of sexual intercourse at the population level in the United States.

The results are anything but ambiguous. No matter how Eisenberg and his co-author, urology resident Andrew Sun, MD, sliced and diced it, more-frequent marijuana use correlated with greater rates of sexual intercourse. "The ... trend we saw applied to people of both sexes and all races, ages, education levels, income groups and religions, every health status, whether they were married or single and whether or not they had kids," Eisenberg told me.

Overall, pot users are having about 20 percent more sex than pot abstainers, Eisenberg and Sun found.

The clear demonstration of a correlation between marijuana use and sexual activity doesn't establish a causal connection between the two, Eisenberg cautioned. The study "doesn’t say if you smoke more marijuana, you’ll have more sex."

Still, the results do hint at it. From my release about the study:

[T]he [observed] trend remained even after accounting for subjects’ use of other drugs, such as cocaine or alcohol. This, Eisenberg said, suggests that marijuana’s positive correlation with sexual activity doesn’t merely reflect some general tendency of less-inhibited types, who may be more inclined to use drugs, to also be more likely to have sex. In addition, coital frequency rose steadily with increasing marijuana use, a dose-dependent relationship supporting a possible active role for marijuana in fostering sexual activity.

As scientists like to say, "further study is required." But that's not so easy. How would you design a randomized, placebo-controlled, study in which neither experimental subjects nor the investigators know whether a given subject is being given marijuana or a placebo? That's the only surefire way to prove that smoking pot enhances people's sex lives.

Then again, I've heard there are people who can't tell marijuana from oregano.

Previously: Average newborn's dad is getting older (as is mom) -- and it matters, Male infertility can be warning of hypertension, Stanford study finds, Low sperm count can mean increased cancer risk and Men with kids are at lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than their childless counterparts
Photo by Esteban Lopez

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