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Couple cuddling.

Smoking Cigarettes, Smoking Weed, and Erectile Dysfunction

If you or someone you know is struggling with erectile dysfunction (ED) you probably have many questions: Can you still have a healthy sex life? What can you do to improve your ability to achieve and maintain an erection? What medicines are available to help men suffering from ED? We can help you with answers to all three of those questions, with a focus on how smoking affects erectile dysfunction and how quitting can help you maintain optimal sexual health.

Man smoking a cigarette outside.

If you smoke tobacco, the research shows that smoking negatively affects your ability to get and keep an erection. Smoking can cause ED in men as young as 20 years old. When you smoke tobacco, you add stress and damage to your cardiovascular system, your heart, arteries, and veins, making it more likely that you will develop heart problems and vascular disease, including erectile dysfunction.

While we don’t have the same type of clear evidence that smoking weed causes ED, we do know that men who use marijuana are twice as likely to develop ED over those who don’t use weed, meaning that doctors recommend caution in marijuana use if you have erectile dysfunction.

The good news is that even if you have smoked for some time, stopping smoking both weed and cigarettes is one of the best things you can do to improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Read on to find out more about how smoking affects your vascular system and causes ED, and how the lifestyle change of stopping smoking, along with adding ED medications, can renew and recharge your sex life.

The Physiology of an Erection

An erection happens in men when the muscles of the penis relax, allowing the arterioles lining the penis to dilate and fill with blood. The process of getting an erection depends on a man’s parasympathetic nervous system, which slows heart rate, increases activity in the glands and relaxes muscles in your body. Actions like smoking, which inhibit cardiovascular function and blood flow also inhibit erections.

Scientists have found that another key element in the smooth relaxation of muscles by the parasympathetic nervous system is the presence of nitrous oxide (NO) in the body. The NO produced by the nerves in a man’s body is the primary force in inducing an erection. This means that any action that blocks the NO pathways in the body will also impede a man’s ability to get and keep an erection.

Smoking, Tobacco Use, and Erectile Dysfunction

Couple laying down in bed.

Smoking tobacco cigarettes has the effect of both damaging cardiovascular health and inhibiting the nitrous oxide pathways in the body.

The research on the effects of cigarette smoking and both vascular and cardiovascular disease is well established. Smoking is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, and arterial disease. When men smoke cigarettes, the chemicals in the tobacco cause the cells lining the heart and blood vessels to swell and become inflamed, causing significant damage. This means that blood can’t flow as easily through the vessels on the way to the penis- an action necessary for an erection to happen.

As the chemicals in tobacco harm the lining of your heart and blood vessels, you also become more likely to develop atherosclerosis, in which a substance called plaque builds up in your arteries. As the waxy plaque is added in layer after layer, it hardens and narrows your vessels and arteries. This further limits the blood flow to your whole body, including your penis.

Finally, smoking affects the way that your body produces enzymes and lowers the level of free nitrous oxide in your blood. Research shows that cigarette smokers have higher levels of superoxide anions, which shunts NO away from its normal pathway to function as a muscle relaxant, meaning that a key step in the process of getting an erection doesn’t happen.

Is Chewing Tobacco Safe for ED Patients?

Some might wonder if chewing tobacco or dipping is a better alternative to smoking, especially for men suffering from ED. Unfortunately, chewing tobacco, snuff, snus or dissolvable tobacco has not only most of the same effects as smoking tobacco it also can cause other health problems not seen in smoked tobacco use. Tobacco has the same chemical structure whether it is ingested or smoked. This means that the effects on your vascular and circulatory systems remain the same.

Smoking, Marijuana Use, and Erectile Dysfunction

Now that we have established the link between tobacco use and ED, what about smoking weed? Does marijuana use have the same effects as tobacco use? We think so, though the evidence is less clear cut. While some studies say that smoking weed can increase sexual desire, cannabis users are twice as likely as non-cannabis users to have erectile dysfunction.

Unfortunately, however, while it seems clear that there is a link between marijuana use and ED, the reasons are not as clear as they are for tobacco use. As the widespread use of marijuana is not as well-established as tobacco use, the research on this topic is both new and developing. In the United State, most medical research is federally funded, and as marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, many scientists can not study marijuana and its effects.

Research continues in other parts of the world, however, and with European, Middle Eastern, and Asian studies, there is solid, well-researched and emerging evidence of the link between cannabis use and ED.

Studies have shown that cannabis use, like tobacco use, inhibits the nitrous oxide pathway to the muscles in the penis, suggesting a mechanism for cannabis-related sexual dysfunction.  Another troubling finding is that cannabis use has been tied to lower testosterone levels in men, as the THC (the main active ingredient in marijuana) has been proven to block the release of the hormones that regulate levels of testosterone in the male body. This same chemical, THC, also disrupts the production of sperm and sperm function. Overall, this research indicates that THC significantly disrupts the reproductive system of men, and supports the idea that it may play a part in causing erectile dysfunction.

The evidence of a link between cannabis use and sexual dysfunction is strong enough that scientists call for, and are currently engaged in studies to determine the mechanistic reasons and the science behind ED and cannabis use.

What About Marijuana Edibles?

The short answer is that we simply don’t know enough right now to make a definitive statement on the effect of marijuana and particularly edibles. While some doctors think that weed can help you relax and not worry about getting an erection as much (therefore actually helping your ED), others caution that the effect on your hormones and nitrous oxide receptors is a cause for concern.

What We Know for Sure

We can state with certainty that tobacco use is definitely a cause for ED and that stopping use can significantly help you regain erectile and sexual function. The literature and science are less clear on marijuana use, but early research indicates that men should be wary and cautious of cannabis use if they have ED.

Beyond these issues, we also certainly know that medicine has provided men with a range of medicinal options that are proven to improve symptoms of ED- from getting an erection to keeping an erection and enjoying peak sexual health. Medications such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra have helped millions of men regain active and satisfying sex lives.

Do you have questions about your sexual health? Are you ready discuss pharmaceutical options in a private, discreet and friendly environment? We encourage you to schedule a free consultation with a U.S. based doctor or pharmacist at eDrugstore.com.  Our medical professionals are available every day of the week via telemedicine, phone (1-800-467-5146), or web chat to answer your questions and get you started on a plan to improve your sexual health. We have decades of experience helping men regain healthy and happy sex lives and stand ready to speak with you today!

Elizabeth Nichols is an experienced and flexible author with extensive experience in both popular media and academic publishing. She specializes in health, medical and travel writing.