My favorite strain of weed is called Pineapple Jack. It's a sativa known for giving users a happy, euphoric, relaxed feeling. However, I also like Pineapple Jack because it's a powerful aphrodisiac—as in, five minutes after vaping it, I want sex. Like now.
It's no secret that cannabis and sex have been linked for centuries—I've written about it several times for Fusion. But rarely do we get hard numbers on how many people are actually using weed for sex because, historically, marijuana use has been extremely under-studied.
Which is why a new survey from HelloMD, a California-based digital healthcare platform for the cannabis industry (think ZocDoc for marijuana), is rather exciting. The company surveyed 1,400 legal marijuana patients over the course of seven days in January 2016 to find out who's using weed for what.
The most common conditions reported by patients for using medical marijuana were chronic pain, anxiety, stress, and insomnia—with 84% of respondents strongly agreeing that cannabis effectively relieves their symptoms. Pretty standard uses for medical grade flower.
I got even more excited when I saw that 14% of users said they use weed specifically to increase their libido and enhance their sex lives. Similarly, 47% said they use it to enhance their mood (which, let's face it, being in a better mood can lead to better sex).
But the percent of people using weed in the bedroom may be even higher than these figures reveal. I spoke to HelloMD's chief marketing officer, Michael Litchfield, who said the top two reasons people reported for using cannabis—anxiety and pain—also extended to sex-related issues, a link that wasn't overtly apparent in the numbers.
"We found a number of people using medical cannabis for anxiety were using it for anxiety around sex. We also found a number of people who used cannabis for pain were using it for pain around sex," Litchfield said, referring to the write-in explanations participants provided. These responses reflect the fact that weed isn't just an aphrodisiac—people have reported that it helps treat sexual dysfunction as well.
It's tough to compare these numbers to the few previous studies that exist on weed use and sex because they aren't really comparable. Back in 1971, a study did find that over half of participants (all experienced pot smokers) reported being better lovers when high, but the participants were specifically asked about weed's effect on sex. By comparison, in HelloMD's survey, participants weren't asked directly about sex, but simply told to list the main reason why they used marijuana; they could then expand on their answers if they desired. What we can say is that people are actively seeking weed to improve their sex lives or to relieve pain and anxiety associated with sex—a benefit to cannabis that still is not widely recognized.
Notably, while men are still using marijuana more than women (the survey found 64% versus 36%, respectively), the ladies were more likely than men to report using cannabis specifically for its libido- and sex-enhancing properties. (Fun fact: Women also reported using weed to alleviate PMS symptoms.)
For many women, according to experts, the draw comes from weed's ability to lower inhibitions and help us focus in on the present. "Most of us spend an incredible amount of mental resources on thoughts of the future and the past—cannabis can help free up that thought power and bring it into the experience at hand, enhancing the five senses and intensifying the experience," said Dustin Sulak, an osteopathic physician in Maine who lectures on medical marijuana nationally, when I interviewed him last year.
Sulak explained that marijuana's effect on the hippocampus—an area of the brain involved in memory and emotion—helps slow down time and inhibit our short-term memory, which allows users to revel in the sensuality of the moment.
In fact, a small study from 1984—which, again, looked specifically on weed's effect on sex—found that two-thirds of cannabis users reported improved orgasm, a heightened sense of intimacy and closeness, and superior sexual prowess.
Of course, the key to making weed work for you in the bedroom is to find the dose and the right strain—something the HelloMD respondents knew. Eighty-six percent agreed that different strains create different feelings and effects, and 70% said they have found a favorite strain that they turn to regularly.
Indeed, various strains can affect people in wildly different ways. This is because, pharmacologically speaking, cannabis is a complicated plant, with 450 to 500 alkaloids—chemical compounds that have very different physiological effects on humans. So the sativa that makes you happy may make someone else paranoid, or the indica that relaxes you may make someone else pass out hardcore.
For sex, the trick is to find the specific plant that works for you and your partner. In the survey, 51% of users found the right strain for them within a month, 21% took up to three months, and 27% took longer than 6 months, or are still looking. (Read more about choosing the right strain here and here.)
As for me, it took about a year to find Pineapple Jack. And yes, it was worth the wait.
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.