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Cannabis and Sex Drive

Libido, arousal,orgasm and sexual satisfaction are important for healthy human sexual
functioning. The complex balancing act of the chemical compounds involved in
sexual behavior fluctuate cyclically for women and women often feel the need
for some help with sexual desire. Both attraction to a partner and engaging in
sex are regulated by complex interactions between sex steroid hormones
(estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin
prolactin, oxytocin). Effects of cannabis on sexual functioning have been
documented literally for centuries, including reports of increased arousal and
sexual pleasure. Of course, there is also the need for the natural elements of attraction (including visual and scent or pheromones) and receptivity to engaging in a sexual encounter. Cuddlingand getting skin-to-skin contact can lead to desire. Oxytocin is released with skin-to-skincontact and this has been shown to increase the amount of the endocannabinoid Anandamide, which is reinforcing for pleasurable experiences. So cuddling can ‘tone’ your endocannabinoid system (ECS) and help with receptivity for more!

Help with libido: Women are reported toexperience issues with sexual function about twice as often as men. Physiologically, women (similar to other mammals) are more likely to be sexually aroused around the time of ovulation. There are several lines of evidence that point to a role for the endocannabinoid system in sexual arousal in women, specifically that AEA (anandamide) levels increase at the time of ovulation. Another was a study of masturbation to
orgasm showing a release of 2AG with orgasm. Interestingly, in another studywhere women watched sexually arousing material and a used a vaginal probe to measure arousal, levels of endocannabinoids were reported to go down. However, this was not a real-life study, andimportantly, skin contact was a missing element.

What Cannabis Users say: In a formal surveyat a gynecology clinic of 737 women (average age 36) using cannabis prior to sex in the real world (published in 2019) and reporting on their experiences, they reported increases in sex drive, improvement in orgasm and decreased pain
with intercourse (for those who had pain). There was no effect on vaginal lubrication (cannabis has been known todry secretions). In this study there wasno information on the exact timing of the cannabis use, but the majority were inhaling cannabis, which has a quick onset of effects. 68.5% reported that their overall sexual experience was more pleasurable, 52.8% reported an increase in in satisfying orgasms, and 60.6% reported an increase in sex drive.
In an informal survey of cannabis users, couples thatused marijuana together regularly as part of their sexual experience reported the average time between consuming the drug by inhalation and beginning intercourse was 23 minutes. 

Why can Cannabis help? One reason that cannabis may improve the sexual experience is due to the heightened sensory perception including visual, auditory, smell, taste, touch and
interoception (the sense of being in tune with what is going on in your body). Another
reason is that the ECS is critical player in the reward pathway, as is dopamine, acting on parts of the brain that facilitate arousal. Sex can be a highly rewarding behavior that activates this pathway. The ECS has been shown to modulate dopamine,and cannabinoid receptor activation has been shown to reverse sexual inhibition in animals. Both AEA and 2AG (the twoendocannabinoids that activate cannabinoid receptors) administered to rats, reversed
‘sexual satiety’ (male rats allowed to copulate with a female rat until exhausted) through activation of the dopamine receptor. So, endocannabinoids are important for sexdrive and appear to stimulate the reward pathway through dopamine receptors!

The question of exactly how cannabis leads to these positive changes in sexual function is unknown. It has been postulated that it leads to improvement in sexual function simply by lowering stress and anxiety. It may slow the perception of time and prolong the feelings of
pleasurable sensations. It may lower sexual inhibitions and increase confidence
and a willingness to experiment. Cannabis is also known to heighten sensations such as touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing.

So, cannabis is working to enhance the sexualexperience through a variety of mechanisms. It is recognized that marijuana and the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, which controls the sex hormones and how they interact with each other. There are cannabinoid receptors in the parts of the brain associated with oxytocin release, which plays a role in normal sexual functioning. In addition, cannabis has been shown to affect testosterone levels, which play a role in sex drive, but how and in which direction in women is yet unknown.

How should I use Cannabis for Sex?

There are aplethora of cannabis products on the market that supposedly increase libido,
from suppositories to vape pens. THC is a more potent activator of the
cannabinoid receptors than Anandamide or 2AG (meaning a lower amount of THC is needed compared to our inner cannabinoids) but THC can have biphasic effects (opposite effects at high vs. low dose). So, whether facilitating or inhibiting dopamine release, the dose is important, as well as frequency of use. Frequent or heavy use (concentrates, vape pens, dabbing, high THC potency cannabis or edibles) downregulates the CB1 receptor. Depending on the consumption method (e.g., smoking, vaping, edibles,tinctures), effects from cannabis can be felt within a few minutes to upward of an hour after ingestion and may last for three to four hours according to body chemistry and other external factors. Taking cannabis orally has very different effects from inhaled. The time until it peaks in the blood streamis much later with oral administration (edibles or oils/tinctures), so you can’t use the cannabis as spontaneously and have the fast effects. Cannabis in a suppository form may also be a means to employ cannabinoids and this method could also aid in lubrication, if needed. There is no formal data on time-to-onset when used this way and it also requires lying down so the oil does not leak out.