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cannabis and sex

Cannabis And Sex? 5 Tips For Couples From Intimacy Expert & Harvard Physician Dr. Jordan Tishler

Can cannabis improve your sex life? A small but growing body of research supports the dose-dependent effects of cannabis on sexuality and arousal. Combined with increased social acceptance, more couples are curious to know how cannabis may benefit their relationship.

In one survey from 2019, over 58 percent of respondents reported that cannabis increased their desire for sex, more than 73 percent said it increased sexual satisfaction, and 65 percent reported that it increased the intensity of orgasms. 

Dr. Jordan Tishler, a Harvard physician and president of the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists, works with medical cannabis patients daily. Increasingly, he’s getting questions about cannabis and sex. 

Based on his experience guiding patients on the intricacies of cannabis and sex health, Dr. Tishler is currently writing a book on the subject. His mission is to bring awareness about the potential of this plant in the bedroom. It’s an area that intrigues people, but one without a lot of conventional approaches.

Cannabis and Sex: Beyond Infused Lube

Most online resources that explain how to use cannabis for sex direct consumers towards THC- and CBD-infused lubricants. There are hundreds of listicles talking about the benefits of weed lubes, supported by limited research.

While cannabis-infused sexual lubricants are a hot consumer product (currently hovering around $10 million in global sales annually), weed lubes are only a part of the picture. In Dr. Tishler’s words, “Most of sexuality happens between the ears, not between the legs.” 

Lubricants (and other cannabis topicals) create localized effects, but the cannabinoids never penetrate into the bloodstream, meaning they never cause intoxication or other psychoactive effects.

Cannabis and sex
Dr. Jordan Tishler is a Harvard physician and president of the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists. He advises patients on cannabis and sex, among many other areas.

Cannabis lubes may heighten local sensitivity, provide localized muscle relaxation, and through vascular effects, increase lubrication, but they do nothing for the mental component required for connection and intimacy. 

Additionally, topicals take time—upwards of 40 to 45 minutes to take full effect. From a practical standpoint, few people will want to apply a sticky or oily lube, then wait around for nearly an hour for those effects to kick in.

There is some value in topical preparation, though, and at least one vibrator brand presents data suggesting it extends orgasm length. But Dr. Tishler feels that weed lubes are oversold in terms of their efficacy because they provide no mental benefits.

When it comes to the science of sex and arousal, the brain has a lot more to do with it.

How Cannabis Sparks Arousal, Connection, and Intimacy

When asked about how the brain translates the effects of cannabis into heightened arousal and improved intimacy, Dr. Tishler responds, “The answer to your question is just insanely complicated.”

Cannabis and the many cannabinoids it contains work in multiple locations within the brain. According to Tishler, it’s here that cannabis offers the most exciting benefits for connection, intimacy, and arousal.

It’s not just about cannabis’ ability to increase sexual desire, he explained. Cannabis (THC specifically) also decreases anxiety and aggression. It’s related to reduced activity in the hippocampus, which in turn reduces short-term recall. By decreasing this input, cannabis may also help lessen the impact of past trauma and fear. These challenging memories or feelings can bubble up during our most intimate moments, and distract and diminish arousal.

Cannabis also dampens activity in the bilateral dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for shame and judgment. Dr. Tishler notes, “When cannabis is used in an MRI, the frontal and prefrontal cortices are shut down in much the same way as during sex. Cannabis can mimic or enhance some of the benefits of sexuality, and for people whose sexuality can be problematic, those substances can lead to relief.” 

This plant goes beyond just an ingredient in a lube. Cannabis intervenes in our sex lives on both a cognitive and emotional level. As Dr. Tishler details, “We can quiet down the distractions and negative inputs, then we can be much more relaxed and in the moment, and appreciate the heightened sensitivity, and the relationship aspects of sex.”

5 Tips from on Cannabis and Sex from an Intimacy Expert

For both experienced weed-loving couples and newcomers, a little guidance around cannabis and sex may be needed. For example, what’s the best and safest strategy to introduce cannabis into your sex life? How much should you use? Are edibles ever a good idea?

It’s important to keep the experience safe, comfortable, and pleasurable for those involved. Based on his research into the powers of pot for sexual health, Dr. Tishler has a few recommendations:

  1. Use Systematically, Not Just Topically: As Dr. Tishler explained, topical application of a cannabis-infused lube may provide some benefits, but to get the most out of your experience, you’ll want to use methods that hit the receptors in the brain. Tishler suggests flower vaporizers, which avoid the risks of smoking and provide more control over the experience.
  2. Steer Clear of Edibles: While the thought of an infused meal may sound romantically appealing, the truth is that edibles are often unpredictable. Not only can they take upwards of 90 minutes to kick in, but they can affect each person quite differently. If the goal is to have both partners arrive on the same page simultaneously, edibles aren’t the best option. 
  3. The Effects Are Linked to THC and THC Alone: Can you work with CBD or other non-intoxicating cannabinoids to improve intimacy and arousal? In the words of Dr. Tishler, “I don’t think we have any reason to believe it’s anything other than our friend THC.” While there may be unevidenced entourage effects discovered from other cannabinoids, to date, the arousal, connection, and intimacy we experience seem deeply connected to THC. New to THC or sensitive to the high? Try experimenting with one-to-one THC:CBD ratios and microdoses.
  4. Practice Perfect Puffs: How do you ensure you don’t overdo it as things start to heat up? For anyone new to cannabis, Dr. Tishler suggests a specific approach to dosing. Practice taking each puff slowly, and aim to fill your lungs to their full capacity. This helps maintain a consistent intake from one puff to the next. Wait 15 minutes between puffs to assess the effects.
  5. Self-Experimentation Before Introducing it into Your Sex Life: If you are unsure how cannabis will affect you mentally and physically, set aside time to experiment by yourself. Take a puff and experience it alone. Where does it take you physically? Does it affect you mentally? Try a few solo masturbation sessions to quite literally get a feel for it. This can help prepare you for bringing a partner into the equation and reduce any surprises.


On Cannabis and Consent

When introducing cannabis into your sex life, always consider how an intoxicant like THC works within a larger conversation about consent. Combining an intoxicating substance like THC with sexual activity can complicate matters.

Dr. Tishler believes that the conversation isn’t as black and white as how it’s often presented, but he is adamant about everyone having this discussion long before cannabis enters into the picture. Partners should discuss comfort level, areas of concern, no-go zones, and even safe words. 

He suggests this may be easier between people who have been together longer than those hooking up for the first time. But what is most important is to open up that conversation before anyone starts to get high.

cannabis and sex
Dr. Jordan Tishler says that when combining cannabis and sex, couples can experience greater relaxation and heightened sensitivity.

Cannabis and Sex: Keeping it Safe, Pleasurable, and Consensual 

As cannabis research evolves, it’s becoming more and more obvious that cannabinoids like THC impact sex, intimacy, and arousal. Applied as a lube, it relaxes localized muscles, stimulates lubrication, and provides other surface-level benefits. Yet, this plant can also improve the more important emotional and mental components required for a healthy sex life.

Cannabis may offer us a way through the limitations created from negative memories, shame, and judgment, towards deeper connection and intimacy. With more research and education, Dr. Tishler hopes that cannabis becomes a safe and acceptable tool for couples to strengthen their connection in the bedroom.

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