As legalization brings cannabis out into the open, sex is becoming a major area of interest for brands as well as smokers. It may even make some consider turning to cannabis instead of the most well-known sex-enhancing drug, alcohol. How exactly, then, do the two substances compare?
According to a new survey by the vibrator startup Lioness, the answer is unequivocal: Cannabis wins. Of 432 people surveyed, 66% said cannabis makes orgasms more intense, compared with only 2% who said the same of alcohol. Similarly, 55% said cannabis led to more satisfying foreplay, compared with 3% saying the same of alcohol, and cannabis gave 57% of people longer sessions (though it decreased the time it took to reach an orgasm), while alcohol did the same for just 6%.
While this study was sponsored by a cannabis company and is not the most objective, there’s other research supporting this point. A 2007 study in the Journal of Pharmacology compared people’s reports of sex with alcohol and sex with illicit drugs, including cannabis and ecstasy. While cannabis wasn’t studied individually, the researchers found that people reported greater willingness to experiment and more satisfying experience overall with illicit drugs compared to alcohol.
Dr. Becky Lynn, Director of the Center for Sexual Health and Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Saint Louis University, who studies how cannabis affects women’s sex lives, says her own patients are more likely to report enhanced libido and orgasm with cannabis than alcohol. Some women with severe pain during sex find alcohol more useful, she says, but this comes at the cost of being less present during the encounter.
Sex coach and CannaSexual creator Ashley Manta says her clients also much prefer cannabis as a sexual aid. “The phrases I hear most often from clients with regard to alcohol and sex are ‘disconnected,’ ‘sloppy,’ and ‘numb,’ ” she said. “With cannabis, I hear ’embodied,’ ‘heightened sensation,’ and ‘euphoric.’ ”
Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, family physician and medical adviser for loudcloudhealth.co, agreed with Manta.
“Alcohol tends to numb us,” Djordjevic said, while “sex on marijuana makes us more aware and enhances our sensations.” Issues such as erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, and falling asleep during sex are also more likely to happen with alcohol, he said. However, cannabis is more likely to cause anxiety and paranoia, which can certainly hinder one’s sexual enjoyment.
One advantage to cannabis is that there are more ways to use it, Manta points out. There are even cannabis sex products that won’t intoxicate you at all, such as topicals and cannabidiol (CBD) products. Lynn cautions, however, that there isn’t solid evidence to support the effectiveness of cannabis lube.
Stoned sex is the best sex
Many people agree based on personal experience that stoned sex is superior.
“On booze, sex is sloppy, graceless, incoherent, and too often incomplete,” said Russel Barth, a 50-year-old author and cannabis advocate in Ottawa. “On cannabis, sex is like a ballet with full-orchestra crescendo. On booze, you are not completely present in the moment. With cannabis, you are deeply in tune with the moment and with the person you are interacting with. The climax can be transcendental.”
“Getting high [on cannabis] makes me ridiculously horny because every sensation is amplified,” said Suzannah, a 23-year-old student in South Africa. “I enjoy having sex while I’m tipsy, but the drunker I get, the more numb everything is, and I also just generally don’t enjoy not remembering a lot of it.”
Some sexual advantages of cannabis for sex are indirect. It makes Michele Parrotta, a 55-year-old entrepreneur in Ontario, Canada, “way less nervous” during sex. Ryan, a 33-year-old who works in sales in Washington, DC, says cannabis actually makes him shier, but that has the benefit of making him more gentle and giving, while alcohol can make him overly bold, selfish, and rough.
Not everyone feels that way, though. Shad, a 26-year-old marketing professional in San Diego and Los Angeles, actually prefers tipsy sex (though not full-on drunk sex) to stoned sex. With weed, “neither person has as much energy and is more likely to chill out vs. get creative and have a great orgasm,” he said.
Joe, a 31-year-old writer in Southern California, sees pros and cons to both. While drunk sex is “more adventurous,” stoned sex is “deliciously slow and contemplative,” he said.
Emma Biddulph, a 25-year-old graduate student in Portland, Oregon, says sober sex is the best of all, but stoned sex can occasionally be fun because it makes partners “giggly” and more comfortable expressing what they want.
Another perhaps surprising difference is, research shows that cannabis actually decreases sexual risk-taking, while alcohol increases it, said Matthew Johnson, associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. A study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that alcohol is more likely to make someone sleep with a stranger, but cannabis is more likely to make them sleep with someone they already know.
“A very likely reason is that alcohol has major effects on GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, and drugs that work on this system tend to have strong disinhibiting effects,” Johnson said. “People don’t put their mental brakes on, so to speak. But cannabis affects the endocannabinoid system, which plays much more of a modulatory role.”
There also might be an upside to cannabis’s potential to induce paranoia, he said: People may be more likely to worry about things like pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Whichever substance you are using, doing it in excess can hinder your sex life more than it helps. One study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, for example, found that men who used cannabis daily were at higher risk for sexual dysfunction such as inability to orgasm, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation.
So, while many people have long been singing the praises of stoned sex and will likely continue to do so, it’s still not a cure-all, and there can be too much of a good thing.