Marijuana and sperm relate on a deeper level than we previously imagined, and the results convey more risks than benefits.
A recent survey revealed that marijuana enhanced sexual pleasure in all manner, but that doesn’t indicate the cannabis and procreation have the best relationship. The science on using marijuana while pregnant is mixed, with most doctors advising to stay away until we know more. But research on how marijuana consumption affects sperm is a little clearer. Most science indicates that smoking weed lowers sperm count and concentration, though normal fertility levels in men can return if they take a marijuana break.
But a new Denmark study in Scientific Reports showed that marijuana and sperm might have a deeper relationship than previously imagined. In ways both good and bad, it appears male sexual organs have more signs of the endocannabinoid system and can recognize the presence of cannabinoids. That means “humans sperm-production hardware is attuned to interacting with cannabinoid chemicals,” Inverse writes of the study, which could explain why sperm changes following marijuana consumption.
“In conclusion, the specific and differential expression patterns suggest a direct involvement of the [endocannabinoid system] in the physiology of the human testis,” the researchers wrote.
That still doesn’t completely answer how cannabis affects sperm beyond count and concentration. Another study published last month in the Epigenetics journal might provide an answer. Focusing on possible mutations sperm undergoes following marijuana exposure, scientists from Duke University found changes in a gene strongly related to autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.
“We were surprised to find this significant association between marijuana use in men and changes in this gene that is implicated in autism,” study co-author Rose Schrott told Fatherly.
After testing 24 men—12 cannabis users, 12 non-users—combined with rat studies, the scientists identified significant hypomethylation in Discs-Large Associated Protein 2, or DLGAP2, from those with marijuana in their systems.
“Differential methylation of DLGAP2 is reported in the brain of individuals with autism, and has been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder in rats,” the study’s authors wrote. “Knockout of DLGAP2 in mice results in abnormal social behavior, increased aggressive behavior, and learning deficits.”
Marijuana-using men everywhere trying to have a child shouldn’t immediately start freaking out, researchers cautioned. This is the first findings of its kind, meaning these results need to be duplicated before linking marijuana smoking and autism in offspring. Scientists behind the study still aren’t sure what their findings reveal.
“We are only able to report this association present in the sperm of men who use marijuana. So what this means for children, we don’t know,” Schrott added.
That said, it remains advisable not to use marijuana during conception. At this point, the risks outweigh the benefits.