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How does weed affect sex?

For the sake of complete transparency, I'll start by saying that high sex definitely ranks among the best sex I’ve ever had. The first time I mixed weed and sex, not only my nether regions, but my entire body, was sensitive to the touch. My mind tends to wander during sex, but this time, I felt rooted in my body and the sensations that rippled over it. Before long, I was having one intense orgasm after the other. Since then, I’ve wondered — can weed really make sex feel better?

I realize that I can't completely rule out the placebo effect. In other words, maybe my expectation that sex would feel better high, which I’d heard about before, was influencing my perception of my experience. But according to Melanie Bone, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Florida, weed may in fact make sex more pleasurable in the ways I’ve experienced firsthand — by enhancing physical sensation, and helping you get in the right headspace.

That said, there hasn’t been a ton of research on the effects of weed on sex, Bone says. Conducting randomized controlled trials on it — the gold standard for health interventions, which in this case would involve assigning one group of participants weed, and the other a placebo, and comparing their sexual experiences — is tricky not only from a logistical standpoint, but also from a regulatory one, since weed is illegal at the federal level. Even if researchers do get the green light from federal agencies, they’re required to use weed from a grow facility at the University of Mississippi, which doesn’t reflect what people actually consume.

As a result, most studies have relied on surveys of people who already use weed, SELF points out. These come with caveats, a big one being that self-assessments aren’t terribly reliable. Still, many of these studies point to weed being a good thing for sex. A 2017 study associated routine cannabis use with more frequent sex, for instance, while a more recent one found that women who got high before sex had a higher chance of reporting satisfying orgasms than those who didn’t use weed beforehand.

Along with these observational studies, anecdotal data from patients suggests that the high-inducing compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, “seems to enhance sensation and decrease touch pain”— for instance, in people with vaginas who experience pain upon penetration, Bone tells Mic. THC (the main compound in weed that makes you feel high) could also relax your muscles, which helps if you tend to clench them out of stress or nervousness.

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Applying it topically (like in an oil) can also provide a pleasure boost without the high, if you prefer to stay sober. But Bone notes that everybody is different, and so are their brains' reactions to the compounds in cannabis. While none of her patients have reported getting stoned during sex with topical THC, some say they experience some mental effects. “But overall, we say it’s a local experience as opposed to a mind experience,” she says. Cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-inebriating compound in weed, may lower friction and promote blood flow when applied topically, which could also enhance sensation.

The high you get from smoking weed or popping an edible may make sex more enjoyable by reducing anxiety and stress, and basically “taking you out of your own head and allowing you to be in the moment,” Bone explains. THC and other cannabinoids could also lower your inhibitions, improving your confidence and making you less self-conscious about your body. This matches with my experience; I’m bolder and more likely to initiate sex when high.

Bone’s patients also report that cannabis increases their sex drive. This may be because of the abundance of cannabinoid receptors in brain regions related to sexual function, per SELF. On a practical, day-to-day level, that can look like heightened responsiveness to a touch, look, or other subtle cue from you partner, which you might otherwise miss or ignore because you have a laundry list of assignments, meetings, and other things on your mind.

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Bone explains that smoking may work better for sex than eating an edible, since weed can take a while to kick in when ingested, and timing sex around it may be tricky — or just unsexy. Strain-wise, in her experience, “uniformly, people like Indica better than Sativa for sex.” The cannabis community broadly divides strains into these two groups, although many debate the precision of this binary. But in simplest terms, Indica strains give you a languorous body high, while Sativa strains result in a cerebral head high. The preference for the former when it comes to sex makes sense. With the Sativa strains, “you could start thinking too much,” Bone says. The weed my partner and I smoked before our first time having high sex was, indeed, an Indica.

If you’re down to try high sex, partaking in weed with your partner beforehand can lend your lovemaking a sense of ritual, not unlike dinner and a glass of wine can do.

While the dose needed to yield these effects isn’t known, “most people don’t need a lot,” Bone says; they consume enough to get high, but not all-out stoned, which may actually negatively impact sex. Weed may not bode well for fertility, either. Research suggests it may worsen fertility issues in some couples already struggling to conceive, Newsweek reports.

If you’re down to try high sex, partaking in weed with your partner beforehand can lend your lovemaking a sense of ritual, not unlike dinner and a glass of wine can do, Bone says. As with any sexual experience, be mindful and respectful of their needs, as well as yours.

And if you’re not thrilled about their pre-coital weed use — maybe you see it as a sign that they don’t find you sexy in their sober state, for example — remind yourself, “It’s not about me, it’s about their experience,” Bone says. “If they’re loving me, and I feel that, I don’t think I should judge them.” That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set boundaries, though (like, say, not smoking so much that they forget your name).

Good sex is so often a matter of not only feeling good, but anchoring yourself in that pleasure. Sounds simple enough, but it’s a state that many, myself included, can find elusive. A little weed high could give you the boost you need to bring it within reach.