When you think of the many ways to enjoy cannabis, intimacy might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But perhaps it should be. New research is shedding more light on the relationship between cannabis, CBD and intimacy. To learn more, we connected with Nisha McKenzie PA-C, Sex Educator, AASECT Certified Sexuality Counselor and Founder and Owner of Women's+ Health Collective.
McKenzie believes more people are becoming increasingly comfortable with at least talking about cannabis, with data revealing the majority of Americans support both medical and recreational legalization. It's no surprise then to learn that people often tell McKenzie they're cannabis users, whether she specifically asks or not.
"I do think there's still much understanding to be gained regarding the difference between CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis that produces the 'high' feeling), as well as the difference in strains," McKenzie said, noting research on cannabis and intimacy from the '70s/'80s provided initial insight. "It's been shown since at least the early to mid-'70s that the effects of cannabis on sex appear to be dose dependent. In other words, too much or too often and you're not likely to enjoy sex. We have studies, however, that show that it can increase the intensity of orgasm and increase mental and interpersonal contact with sexual partner(s)."
Around the same time, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drugs found that frequent but not daily use of cannabis when compared to everyday or rare use was associated with an increase in sexual pleasure in about 70% of participants. McKenzie explained that cannabis appears to decrease anxiety, heighten sensations, slow down the perception of time, increase dopamine and allow for more focus and less distraction.
"Recently, a friend of mine—Becky Lynn, MD—published a study evaluating the relationship between marijuana use prior to sex and sexual function in women. They showed that 68%, 60.6% and 52.8% of women in the study reported a more pleasurable sexual experience, an increase in sex drive, and an increase in satisfying orgasm, respectively," McKenzie said. "Another recent study shows us that for each additional step of cannabis use intensity (i.e., times per week), there were higher scores related to female sexual dysfunction in every domain except pain. Meaning dose and frequency matter! At higher doses, and increased frequencies, cannabis appears to have a detrimental effect on sex."
So, in what ways can cannabis be used in intimacy with yourself or your partner?
"If we lived in Colorado or California, you could use a product with THC in the lubricant," McKenzie explained, "However, everywhere else we'll have to settle in with CBD lubricant, which can also be wonderful. CBD oil can be used for full body massage and/or a lubricant during sexual activity and can be helpful with muscle relaxation and pain, as well as have an overall calming effect."
Ultimately, McKenzie emphasizes that if you do choose to try cannabis at all, to make sure you're in a safe space, either with a trusted partner or alone, to start low and go slow with dosing, and avoid smoking. Instead, she recommends using tinctures, water vaporizers or edibles, and purchasing from a reputable provisionary.
"Discuss with your medical provider to determine risks and benefits, potential for tolerance and abuse—or interactions with your current medications—and the overall lack of data," she said. "If you get answers that appear to have more bias than data behind them, ask a different medical provider!"
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Jun/Jul '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.