Duke University scientists have discovered that cannabis has the ability to affect genes in both male rodents and human beings. Two pathways were discovered to be altered by the regular consumption of marijuana. One impacted organs’ ability to grow and the other is linked to the body’s ability to fight cancer and tumors. These findings add to a plethora of scientific evidence related to cannabis and our reproductive systems. As of Wednesday, the study can be found in the Journal Epigenetics.
The Duke investigation was conducted in two parts, the first of which analyzed the sperm of rats who had been dosed with THC versus those who had not been exposed. Subsequently, scientists studied the sperm of two groups of men: one group comprised of weekly smokers and a control group that had smoked marijuana very few times — and never in the past year.
In both parts, variations in sperm were detected between the two groups, raising questions of whether cannabis use can affect one’s future children.
Past studies have encountered other potential reproductive system risk factors involved in consuming cannabis. One 2015 study suggested that cannabis use can decrease sperm count. An investigation completed in 2016 found that the drug can even lower female fertility. Marijuana has been also found to delay or even prevent orgasms in men.
But not every scientific experiment conducted has found pot to be detrimental to one’s sex life. A 60,000 person survey found that women who use cannabis reported having 34 percent more sex, while men reported having 22 percent more sex than their counterparts who don’t use marijuana. A University of Connecticut economist named Michael Baggio and his co-authors Alberto Chong and David Simon ran a data analysis that found local birth rates often rise in places where medical marijuana laws have been implemented.
In a less scientifically regimented phenomenon, many cannabis lube users have reported that the substance is a boon to their sex lives and menstrual cycles. Some doctors have been known to prescribe cannabis use for patients experiencing difficulties in their sex lives.
Bobby Najari, an NYU Langone urologist, was contacted by the Verge to comment on Duke’s sperm variation findings. “I think one of the important positive things about research like this is that it may further motivate men to change their health,” he said. “It’s one thing to talk about sperm count, another when you’re talking about the potential health of the child.”
Some notes, before you panic: the sample size of the initial study were relatively small, and there was no control for the concentration of THC smoked by the people in the study. The Duke University study’s implications are troublesome, but its architects are counseling restraint before further research is conducted.
“I want to be very careful to not have the results turned into something that they’re not,” says Susan Kay Murphy, the study’s co-author and professor of gynecology. “It’s not intended to scare people. Our whole objective is to learn more about biology and what effects there might be.”