Cannabis Use in Young Adults

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The impact of cannabis use on male fertility

By: Andrew Molitor, MD; Jason C. Hedges, MD PhD; Carol B. Hanna, PhD; Jamie O. Lo, MD MCR; Jasper C. Bash, MD

Cannabis use is on the rise globally and in the United States, where it is the most commonly used federally illegal drug among men of reproductive age.1,2 In 2020, 34.5% of young adult men aged 18 to 25 years and 16.3% aged 26 or older used cannabis.2  These levels of cannabis use make it important to understand any impact on male fertility and reproductive health.

Clinical Considerations

Prior studies have demonstrated the presence of cannabinoid receptors on sperm and throughout the male reproductive tract, and the key role the endocannabinoid system has in regulating male reproduction.3,4 These studies suggest cannabis can impact male fertility as:

  • Cannabis use affects semen parameters, specifically sperm count, concentration, motility, viability, and morphology, which can inhibit capacitation and fertilization.5-8
  • Preclinical studies suggest that cannabis use results in testicular atrophy, although not well-studied in humans.9-12
  • The impact of cannabis use on the reproductive hormonal axis is variable, with minimal to no change seen in follicle stimulating hormone (FSH),13 decreased luteinizing hormone (LH) levels,13,14 and a variable response on testosterone.5,6,15

The available literature suggests cannabis use increases sexual desire but may limit coital performance.16-18 Cannabis use is independently associated with increased sexual frequency and a greater number of sexual partners. Questioned while shopping in dispensaries, users reported improved erectile function, orgasmic function, and sexual satisfaction.17,19,20 However, the use of cannabis is also associated with orgasm inhibition and a two-fold increase in erectile dysfunction, potentially from accelerated endothelial damage.16,18

Bottom Line

The existing literature examining the effect of cannabis on male fertility is limited because many studies relied on patient self-report, lacked quantification of cannabis used, did not specify mode of cannabis delivery, and subject populations were often from assisted reproductive centers or had polysubstance abuse histories.21-24 The little that is known suggests cannabis use is associated with reduced male fertility and reproductive function. Nonetheless, there are likely dose-dependent effects and a potential for reversibility. The duration after discontinuation of cannabis before some degree of recovery is achieved has not been clearly defined. Patients interested in conception should be made aware of these potential risks and consider cessation. Health care providers should discuss the potential effect on fertility with patients using cannabis medically and consider minimizing the dose needed to achieve symptom relief.

Suggested citation: Molitor A, Hedges JC, Hanna CB, Lo JO, Bash JC. The Impact of Cannabis Use on Male Fertility. The Systematically Testing the Evidence on Marijuana Project: March 2022.

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