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The effects of marijuana on sex

Brie Gatchalian is a freelance writer based in Montclair, NJ. When she's not writing about fashion and beauty, she researches topics related to relationships and mulls over her own love life. She'll be the first to admit she doesn't hav...

Pipe down

Smoking a jane might make you think you're feeling the love, but studies show marijuana can be detrimental to your sex life. See how marijuana can turn your sexy time from smokin' hot to a real drag.

What some might think to be a harmless drug is not harmless at all. In fact, marijuana can cause serious sexual problems in many couples. "Marijuana users might experience very weak orgasms or not experience them at all," says Dr. Juan C. Paredes, board-certified psychiatrist based in South Beach Clinic in Miami Beach who sub-specializes in sexual medicine for men.

We asked Dr. Paredes, as well as Dr. Dennis Lin, sex therapist, psychiatrist and attending physician at the Department of Psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, NY, other questions on the subject. Read on to uncover some important facts about pot and sex...

How does marijuana affect a man's fertility?

The mechanism for marijuana to contribute to erectile dysfunction is unknown," says Dr. Paredes. "However, it might be related to an increase in prolactine production, which has also been linked to decreased testosterone. This hormone is important for processes such as erection, ejaculation and orgasm."

"Men who smoke marijuana frequently have significantly less seminal fluid, a lower total sperm count and their sperm behave abnormally, all of which may affect fertility adversely," adds Dr. Lin.

What is prolactine?

"Prolactine is a hormone produced in the brain's pituitary gland -- it's essential for breast feeding and elevated during pregnancy and breastfeeding. When elevated, prolactine has negative effects on the production of other sex hormones, such as testosterone, and is associated with decreased libido," explains Dr. Paredes. "Marijuana is one of the drugs that can increase prolactine production and therefore it acts on libido and other testosterone-mediated functions, such as erection, ejaculation and orgasm."

"It is also thought that high prolactine levels produce down regulation of dopamine brain receptors, a neurotransmitter essential to stimulate sexual behavior in animals and human beings," he adds. "The most frequent cause for elevated prolactine levels is prescribed medications."

What are other ways smoking marijuana habitually can affect someone's sexual health? Are there any other symptoms or consequences?

"Using marijuana regularly or habitually is related. It increases risk of erectile dysfunction, and in men and women it may be linked to overall reduced interest in sex," says Dr. Lin. "Marijuana, in higher doses, has detrimental effects on fertility and even in smaller doses can have negative impacts during pregnancy for the fetus."

If a woman suspects that her husband or significant other's marijuana habit is affecting their sex life, how should she approach him?

"The best way to approach her partner is through open and honest communication. Tell your husband or significant other that his marijuana habit is having a negative effect on your sex life," says Dr. Lin. "If there continues to be communication difficulties the couple should seek the help of a psychotherapist."

Are there any long-term effects if the problem isn't worked on?

"As a rule, habitual use of marijuana or any illicit substance will lead to long-term detrimental consequences on one's sexual health and function, as well as general health and well-being," explains Dr. Lin. "Therefore, it should be avoided."

Are there certain vitamins or medicines that men can take to avoid such difficulties?

"There is not a single medicine or vitamin that prevents sexual dysfunctions," explains Paredes. "The best way to do it is through a healthy lifestyle, including emotional balance, refreshing sleep, daily exercise, healthy eating, abstinence from cigarettes and drugs, moderation with alcohol and fulfilling sex."

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