Could Smoking a Little Pot Raise Sperm Levels?

Pearl Mccarthy
February 10, 2019

A study published on Wednesday in the Human Reproduction medical journal found that male cannabis smokers might actually carry higher sperm counts and concentrations when compared to men who have never used the botanical drug.

Researchers analyzed health surveys and semen samples from more than 650 men who were part of couples seeking treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center between 2000 and 2017. The men also answered lifestyle questions including whether they used marijuana or other drugs: 55 percent had smoked cannabis at least once; 44 percent were past users; and 11 percent current.

The researchers have cautioned that there are limitations to the findings, as some of the participants may have under-reported their cannabis use. Now, researchers at Harvard have found an unexpected side effect of smoking pot - it appears to increase sperm count.

"There are men in the world who have never smoked a joint in their life and they have lots of children and there are others who smoke every day and never got their partner pregnant", said Morrison.

Among men who had ever smoked marijuana, those who used it more often had higher testosterone levels than those who used it less often. Of the 662 men, 365 reported having smoked marijuana and these men are reported to have had "significantly higher sperm concentration".

In their study, they found that men who had smoked marijuana have an average of 62.7 million sperm per milliliter of ejaculate. "Secondly, the study is a great opportunity to spark interest on investigating the health effects of marijuana particularly with the backdrop of increasing legalization of recreational use in the US coupled with a greater perception that marijuana poses no health risks".

Previous studies had suggested that smoking marijuana may lower a man's sperm count, especially among heavy users.

"Our findings were contrary to what we hypothesized at the start of the study", study lead author Feiby Nassan, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in the statement.

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Although men who had smoked pot at some point in their lives had higher sperm numbers, the study did not look at cause and effect.

For now, there's just not enough evidence to make any conclusions about the use of marijuana on male sperm. One 2014 study surveyed almost 2,000 British men and found that men under 30 with less than four per cent normal sperm were twice as likely to have used marijuana in the past three months.

"But the fact that we showed the exact opposite forced us to look very, very deeply into the marijuana health effects literature".

It is estimated that 16.5% of adults in the USA use marijuana, and support for legal recreational use of marijuana has increased dramatically in recent years. It's true that marijuana acts on the endocannabinoid system, which is known to play a role in fertility, so the authors say there could be some benefit to sperm production from low levels of marijuana use.

Prof Chavarro said: "First, we do not know to what extent these findings may apply to men in the general population".

There's also a potential link between pot use and testosterone, said senior researcher Dr. Jorge Chavarro.

Whether those changes can be passed on to a child remains unknown, but for now, some researchers are warning that men in their childbearing years should consider how weed might impact their fertility and possibly their offspring.

Fifty-five per cent reported having used cannabis at some point in the past, and 11 per cent said they now used the drug.

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