Could smoking weed really result in an unwanted erection?

Published Mar 10, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / dobok

Cannabis consumers are pretty used to getting flak for their choice, especially in cases where our family or friends are against it, but if you were to have told the average stoner that smoking weed might give them the longest erection of their life, they probably wouldn’t have believed you, until now. One man has experienced this unfortunate side effect, and doctors are doing their best to try to understand why it’s happening.

If this really doesn’t sound like a bad thing, then you aren’t quite getting the scope of the situation at hand, because in this case, it’s painful, uncomfortable, and difficult to treat or manage without medical intervention. We aren’t talking about a long night of good quality sex that doesn’t wane, instead, this is a condition that often results in a medical emergency, which is why it’s so important for researchers to figure out the connection.

Smoking weed and priapism adverse effects

This isn’t the first time that experts have heard about this potential side effect, but unfortunately, due to a lack of research into the subject, we have no idea why smoking weed could possibly cause priapism. Priapism is a medical diagnosis for a painful and persistent penile erection that can last for anywhere from hours to days on end and in this case, it seems that the patient in question is only impacted when he chooses to indulge in cannabis.

The study

In a study which was published in the Journal of Cannabis Research in February, researchers outlined some of the many reasons why they believed that smoking weed was the cause of one man’s priapism that seemed to plague him on and off throughout life, but it only seemed to happen during years that he consumed cannabis.

Since the individual in question went through several years of sobriety in between these episodes, it was pretty easy to see that smoking weed was the reason for it, and researchers took to trying to figure out if it was actually possible and why. As it turns out, the individual's clear recollection of events and clean medical history was enough for them to rule out any other possibilities for the adverse effects.

The subject during this time showed no other notable symptoms, had no prior medical conditions aside from a mild case of hypertension and took no prescription or over the counter medications that are often the cause of priapism, but that’s not all. The amount of time that he reported would pass between when he smoked weed and when he experienced these unfortunate adverse effects was a window of only an hour at most, which makes it nearly impossible to deny a connection between the two.


Included in this study were four other patients with similar complaints, but this one was the only person who did not have some other obvious factor that could be responsible. Now, unfortunately, this doesn’t explain why it happened, or if there is any way around the cruel biological response, but it is a good step in the right direction because those who specialize in this region of medicine are pushing for the facts and a better understanding of the correlation.

Best guess

No one is claiming to know for certain what is happening to this person, and many others who battle similar adverse symptoms to cannabis, however, the researchers who headed this study have revealed what they believe to be the main culprit in this mess. Cannabinoids are well known for their powerful and sometimes intense effects, and THC specifically is known for dimming our sense of touch and reaction time.

In this case, the experts say that they think the cannabinoids like THC that are in cannabis somehow interfered with his ability to have any control over the long-lasting erection. Unfortunately, a more specific or direct explanation is not given. However, the researchers in this situation are also adamant that much more research is necessary to rule out all other potential suspects, which will be an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to discovering a cure for anyone who might be afflicted.

Until then, they offer the suggestion that anyone who might be experiencing this problem should discuss it with their family practitioner to avoid the potential necessity of invasive treatments to make it all go away. So, if you ever find yourself smoking weed, followed by an intense sensation and reaction in your pants, then you might want to lay off the green for a while until you figure out what the problem is for certain.

Much like with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, we still have no idea how this all works, and the only thing that will uncover the truth is dedicated cannabis research performed by specialists in the field. So don’t be shy, share your story with your friends, family, and doctor, and know that you aren’t alone in this journey because some of the best and brightest people in the world are working on it.

Adverse effects from smoking marijuana explained


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