Nowadays, cannabis usage is getting more and more democratic. People smoke it to alleviate debilitating diseases, chronic pain, to deal with mental illness and obviously, recreationally. Depending on your side of the pond, it’s legal or illegal. Nevertheless, as much as we want to see the good in a potentially life-saving drug, we also have to acknowledge it’s potential side effects – especially when it comes to our manly health. That is why, today, I’ll try to answer this question you’ve been wondering…Does cannabis lower testosterone levels ?
Let’s look at scientific proof, because this isn’t about opinions, it’s about facts.
Does Cannabis Lower Testosterone ? – Facts
What is the origin point of the cannabis lowers testosterone story ?
A study made in 1974 reported that chronic marijuana users had a significantly lower level of testosterone in their plasma compared to the control-group of non-smokers. Alarmingly, the cannabis smokers had HALF the testosterone of the non marijuana smokers. (1)
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Regardless, one study isn’t enough to confirm a fact. To reach definitive conclusions, you’ll need a vast array of studies confirming the same results with a large number of participants and the similar factors. Additionally, it’s as important, if not more, to see if there isn’t any contrary evidence…
Here we go…Other studies have shown that cannabis use doesn’t lower testosterone levels and that, despite the fact that many others do. And this is a trend that hasn’t changed over time. So, who can we believe ?! Maybe, common sense ? (2)
Cannabis and Stress – Is this the Answer ?
Researchers have found that smoking cannabis has a significant impact on cortisol levels – or what we commonly know as the stress hormone. You may (or may not) know that chronic high levels of cortisol have a disastrous effect on testosterone levels. Frequently elevated levels of cortisol can inhibit testosterone production. Unfortunately (for the pot lovers out there), they have found that heavy cannabis smokers had significantly higher levels of cortisol compared to non-smokers.
The relationship between stress and cannabis isn’t clear. We could hypothesize that the elevated cortisol levels are triggered by a heavy use of marijuana or simply, that smokers are generally more anxious to start with and use cannabis to self-medicate.
There’s also another case to make…with so many strains of cannabis, the effects can be wildly different. Cannabis grown for medical purposes usually tends to have lower THC content and higher CBD (and other non psychoactive components) content. For instance, CBD is used for mental illness and chronic pain management. As of now, there are no contraindications for CBD use. On the other hand, recreational cannabis frequently has a higher THC percentage which could be problematic for people who use it on a very regular basis (meaning: daily and a lot).
Difference Between Casual Use and Heavy Use of Marijuana
However, you are considered a casual smoker if you smoke about five joints per week. So anything around this number should theoretically leave you in the clear, as this study shows. (3)
I personally think that cannabis isn’t the big bad guy portrayed by certain media. Nonetheless, scientific facts show that abuse can lead to lower testosterone levels. Although, it’s important to remember…there is NO clear connection between cannabis use and low testosterone levels. Moreover, occasional consumption doesn’t seem to affect your levels. My cautionary advice would be to stick to the celebratory joint every now and then. If you are a big user, you might want to consider stopping or not, it’s up to you. The research is inconclusive (as a whole) but we do know that too much of a good thing may not be that good…
Does Cannabis Lower Testosterone ? – Conclusion
It may have an impact on testosterone WHEN smoked heavily and chronically. However, as I stated previously, no one seems to agree on how much and if it’s the direct result of smoking weed or not. Therefore, this article may have left you more confused than you were before.
If you are confused, just remember, not unlike some alcohols (like wine), cannabis can have benefits. Albeit, certain strains more than others. If you use marijuana for self-medicating purposes, do your research thoroughly and opt for a strain that will help you. And you, the recreational users of cannabis, you may want to limit yourselves to a fixed amount, just in case.
(1) Depression of plasma testosterone levels after chronic intensive marihuana use. Kolodny RC, Masters WH, Kolodner RM, Toro G. N Engl J Med. 1974.
(2) Effects of chronic marijuana use on testosterone, luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin and cortisol in men and women. Robert I. Block, Roxanna Farinpour, Janet A. Schlechte. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Volume 28, Issue 2, August 1991.
(3) Plasma Testosterone Levels in Healthy Male Marijuana Smokers. Paul Cushman. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Encompassing All Addictive Disorders. Volume 2, 1975.