Certain activities, substances, or even physical environments can decrease male fertility by killing or damaging sperm cells. If you’re trying to conceive with your partner, or if you think you might like to start a family someday, keep reading to learn more about how medical marijuana (Cannabis) affects sperm count and fertility in men.
Before we start this discussion, let’s clear up some important terminology: first and foremost, the difference between “sperm” and “semen.”
Semen, which contains sperm, is simply the fluid discharged during orgasm. You might hear it referred to as “seminal fluid.”
The sperm cells in semen – those tadpole-like cells you probably remember seeing pictures of in biology class – are what actually penetrate and fertilize egg cells.
When we talk about a man’s overall “sperm quality,” we’re really talking about three distinct criteria:
- Sperm Count – “Sperm count” is the number of sperm cells in a given semen sample. Sperm count can range anywhere from about 15 million to 200 million sperm cells per milliliter of semen. A sperm count lower than 15 million sperm cells per milliliter is considered a low sperm count, a common condition known as “oligospermia.” A low sperm count can be increased, and does not necessarily make pregnancy impossible. However, oligospermia makes conceiving much more difficult.
- Sperm Morphology – Morphology is the study of physical structures and forms. Put simply, “sperm morphology” refers to normal versus abnormal sperm cells. A deformed sperm cell might be too large or too small, or be shaped abnormally (e.g. having two heads).
- Sperm Motility – Sperm cells have to be powerful swimmers in order to reach the egg. This ability to move around is called “motility.” Even if a man has a normal sperm count, abnormal sperm motility (or morphology) can still cause fertility problems.
In summary, there are three gauges of male fertility:
- How many sperm cells there are in a man’s semen (the count).
- How many of a man’s sperm cells are deformed (the morphology).
- How well a man’s sperm cells are able to swim around (the motility).
Does Marijuana Lower Sperm Count?
Now that we’ve clarified those critical terms, let’s take a closer look at how sperm quality might be impacted by Cannabis use, based on peer-reviewed research conducted during the past decade.
Most research indicates that marijuana has negative effects on sperm and thus male fertility, which might be good or bad news depending on how soon you’d like to become a dad. Here are what some recent studies had to say on the subject of Cannabis, sperm, and male fertility.
In 2015, the American Journal of Epidemiology published a study on “1,215 young Danish men aged 18 to 28 years.” Some of the men did not use marijuana, some used it weekly or less, and some used it more than once per week.
In the study, “Regular marijuana smoking more than once per week was associated with a 28% lower sperm concentration and a 29% lower total sperm count after adjustment for confounders.”
Additionally, “The combined use of marijuana more than once per week and other recreational drugs reduced the sperm concentration by 52% and total sperm count by 55%.” However, it’s impossible to know how much of this was attributable directly to Cannabis, as opposed to the “other recreational drugs.”
The young age of the participants in the study is significant, because while men can have problems with sperm count, morphology, or motility at any age, these factors are more commonly seen in middle-aged or elderly men.
The Epidemiology study focused on sperm count and concentration of sperm cells, but did not examine motility or morphology. However, according to a 2011 study that was published in Frontiers in Bioscience, “chronic exposure to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol THC, the main psychoactive constituent of marijuana, impairs human reproductive potential by… reducing sperm count and motility.”
Similar effects have been noted in mice, with one 2012 study from the British Journal of Pharmacology finding, “Pretreatment of sperm for 15 min with 1 µM delta-9-THC reduced their basal motility and attenuated the ability of bicarbonate to stimulate flagellar beat frequency.” In other words, the British study showed that exposing sperm cells to THC decreased their motility, specifically by interfering with the process that normally prompts sperm cells to whip their tails at a certain frequency. (Interestingly, the same study mentioned that rimonabant – a banned drug that binds to the same receptors as Cannabis, yet produces opposite effects – “has been shown to enhance sperm motility.
Cannabis could also have negative impacts on sperm morphology, meaning marijuana could cause more of your sperm cells to be shaped abnormally. Research published in Human Reproduction in 2014 established “use of Cannabis in the three months prior to [semen] sample collection” as one of the “risk factors for poor sperm morphology,” even after adjusting for other factors, among men aged 30 or younger.
While older data is less valuable, the findings happen to be similar. For instance, a study that was published in 1985 in the Spanish medical journal Acta Ginecologica noted, “Declines in sperm volume and count and abnormal sperm motility have been observed in chronic marijuana users” (though the study did not define “chronic marijuana users”).
So, what’s the takeaway?
The bad news (if you want to become a father) is that marijuana appears to have negative effects on sperm count, sperm morphology, and sperm motility – all of which are important for getting pregnant.
The good news is that these effects aren’t permanent. Remember, these studies all looked at current or recent users of marijuana. If you’re worried about Cannabis damaging your sperm quality or sperm count, try taking a break for a few months. And if that’s not an option, there are many other ways to try boosting your sperm count, ranging from advanced medical treatments to simple lifestyle changes.
Finally, it’s important to mention that, for men with initially normal sperm counts, the decrement likely with Cannabis would not affect fertility.
The important thing is not to give up or get discouraged. Millions of couples have had perfectly healthy babies after struggling to conceive for months or even years.
You may want to consider abstaining from Cannabis, at least temporarily, if you’re trying to have a child with your partner. If you are not trying to conceive, you may be interested in Cannabis for male sexual enhancement. Medical marijuana has also been approved for arthritis patients, chronic pain patients, Crohn’s patients, multiple sclerosis patients, and many others.
To learn more about how medical marijuana can help provide relief for your condition, or to get information about incorporating Cannabis into other areas of your life, such as marijuana for anxiety in Florida or marijuana for sexual enhancement, contact or get started online for a free and confidential consultation.
Who can legally use medical marijuana in Florida?
Medical marijuana is a treatment option for Florida residents who have documented cases of Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, AIDS/HIV, ALS, cancer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic pain, seizure disorders, muscle spasms or any similar debilitating condition. It is also available to people suffering from any condition determined to be terminal by two physicians.
How do patients get a medical marijuana card?
People 18 or older must visit one of the more than 1800 doctors who are permitted by the Florida Department of Health to recommend medical marijuana. Those under 18 are required to see two doctors. If a physician agrees that the use of medical marijuana has more benefits than risks, the patient is entered into the registry and can apply for an Office of Medical Marijuana Use ID card. Once the initial certification is issued, patients must be reevaluated by their physician once every 30 weeks in order to be able to have their certification renewed.
Related Information: Find Medical Marijuana Doctors In Florida
Where is medical marijuana sold?
Registered medical card patients in Florida can take their doctor’s recommendation to any licensed medical marijuana retail dispensaries to make purchases once approved by the state. Patients are allowed to purchase up to a 70-day supply at one time. Although federal law doesn’t allow marijuana to be sent through the mail, for patients who don’t live near a dispensary or can’t travel to one, most MMTCs deliver statewide.
How much does it cost?
An initial visit to a doctor to become certified generally costs around $200-$300 with follow-up visits running at about $200. State ID cards from the Office of Medical Marijuana Use cost $75.
What forms of medical marijuana are available?
Patient’s can buy marijuana & many other areas in what’s commonly known as “flower” form. Also, medical marijuana is delivered through vaporizers, pills, creams, transdermal patches, suppositories, oral drops, edibles or nasal sprays. It’s illegal to smoke any form of marijuana—whether medical or recreational in Florida.
Can people grow marijuana themselves?
With the exception of the state’s licensed MMTCs, growing marijuana is illegal in Florida. Even a registered medical marijuana patient will be charged with a felony and could serve jail time for possession of a cannabis plant.
Is marijuana a legitimate medicine?
Because the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of marijuana for any medical condition landing it in the Schedule 1 category along with heroin and LSD as it is tightly controlled, and studies on its efficacy are limited.
Current science supports the use of marijuana and many other states as a painkiller, anti-emetic, neuroprotectant and appetite stimulant. Ongoing research includes studies focused on pinpointing how it may affect certain body systems and disorders.
How does medical marijuana work in the human body?
The human body’s endocannabinoid system naturally makes marijuana-like chemicals that bind to receptors embedded in cell membranes in the liver, brain, lungs, kidneys, nervous system and immune system. When a patient uses cannabis, the chemicals in the drug are delivered to the blood through the lungs (when inhaled), the digestive system (when consumed), or the skin (when applied topically). When those chemicals interact with key endocannabinoid receptors, they can suppress signals such as pain, nausea and depression, while boosting signals of appetite and euphoria.
Is marijuana still illegal at the federal level?
Yes. However, the federal government hasn’t pursued criminal charges against people who sell or use medical marijuana within state registries. Because of the disconnect between federal and state laws, health insurance companies can’t cover medical marijuana, and doctors can’t prescribe it they can only recommend it. Additionally, banks can’t accept deposits from MMTCs, so patients must pay cash when they make purchases at dispensaries. Employers are allowed to fire workers who test positive for marijuana, even if they consume the drug as a part of the state’s registry. Get medical marijuana in Florida Here.