Roll up, roll up!

  • Why is it still called a building even after it’s built?
  • Why do we say ‘cheese’ when we get a photo, but not ‘photo’ when we get cheese?
  • If two mind readers are reading each other’s minds … whose mind are they actually reading?
  • Does my belly button look like it’s about to say something?

These are just some of the questions you may have asked yourself while stoned. What you probably should’ve been asking yourself though, is does smoking this cannabis damage my testosterone?

For two reasons really. One, we rely on high, natural levels of T for strong performance, physique, overall health and positive mood. Two, there are actual studies we can use to check, so you don’t have to turn your brain inside out looking for the answer.

Cannabis has been at the center of an P.R tug of war for decades now. For some it’s a great organic way to relax, with the potential to relieve symptoms of chronic illness and even effectively fight some cancers. To others it’s a one way ticket to hard drugs and mental illness.

But that’s a debate for another site, here we’re only interested on how it might impact T.

So apart from potentially reversing the good work normally done by T, do your hormones have anything to fear from you indulging in a cheeky smoke?

Toke a closer look

Cannabis is one of the most widely used drugs the world over, but the country where it’s most popular may surprise you.

According to stats from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Iceland has the most fans, with 18.3% of the population using. The United States is in second place with 16.3% while the U.K is down in 26th on a pathetic 6.2%. Which is actually only just behind nations famous for their enjoyment, such as Jamaica and The Netherlands.

How’s about that? The next time your flight over Iceland is delayed due to poor visibility, it’s just as likely to be the Magnussons having a house party as it is volcanic activity. But what exactly is it so many are so fond of?

Not to sound like an after school special, but the average person will know cannabis by many different names. Marijuana, pot, weed, dope, ganja, hashish, herb, fattyboombatty, donkey’s dream, party shoes, sparklefish, Alan’s Mum. (Okay, I’m just making em up now, but you get the idea.)

To most scientists and gardeners though, it’s dried leaves from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. There are plenty of active compounds, or cannabinoids, included – but only one is controversial. Delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol – try saying that on your fifth or sixth pass. Better known as THC.

THC is the psychoactive substance which interacts with your nerve receptors leading to the famous mood altering effects and a feeling of being high.

The buds and leaves of Cannabis sativa have much stronger levels of THC than the stems. Some modern cannabis is topped up with artificial THC. Many believe this is to blame for any negative effects of use. Arguably another example of how natural is safest.

Does use make a difference to Testosterone?

So we know it gets you high. But what about you’re T? Well, luckily for us, scientists have been studying the drug’s effects regularly since the 1960s, when it first saw a huge increase in popularity.

The first work to raise concern came in the early 70s with researchers Harmon and Aliapoulios reporting that in their experimental models cannabis affected the regulation of multiple hormonal systems such as gonadal, adrenal, prolactin, growth hormone, and thyroid hormone.

They suggested cannabis not only reduced T levels, but increased gynecomastia. That’s man boobs to me and you.

Results of a study from around the same time, in 1974 appeared to contradict this however. The trial by Mendelson et al monitored plasma testosterone levels of 27 men in their early to mid-twenties. These lads were not messing about, smoking an average of 54 joints over the 21 day period of observation. If there was going to be a problem this team would know about it.

There wasn’t. No relationship between intense cannabis use and T was found.

That same year though a study by Kolodny et al did note a change for the worse. Twenty men, aged 18 to 28, who smoked a minimum of 4 times a week for 6 months had their test levels recorded. The average T levels in the active group – 416 ± 34 ng per 100 ml – was noticeably lower than the control group who didn’t smoke – 742 ± 29 ng per 100 ml.

There are two things to note here. Firstly, although there’s undoubtedly a drop, the cannabis group’s readings are still within minimum normal range for adult men ( 300ng/dL.) Secondly, this is actually a pretty rare example of a negative human trial.

More typical is the investigation by Iowa University in 1991. This recruits 93 men and 56 women, all heavy users, to check the drug’s impact on a range of things, including; T, luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin and cortisol. No effect is seen on any area in either men or women.

Yes we can-nabis?

The effect of weed on T certainly seems to be minimal and temporary if any, but that doesn’t mean there may not be other considerations.

For example a 2015 Danish study of semen quality in men who smoked at least once a week found their sperm concentration was 28% lower than those laying off the drug. That rose to 55% when combined with alcohol and other recreational substances.

This is in line with a lot of the evidence suggesting THC is not great for healthy reproduction, leading to a number of issues, like poor sperm motility. Hardly surprising. Have you ever got stoned and gone for a swim? Well don’t! You’re not Michael Phelps.

[Editor: OK, it’s pretty unlikely, but in the off chance you are actually the Michael Phelps and you are reading this, please leave us a comment below.]

What does it all mean, man? Like, what does it mean?

The vast majority of evidence shows smoking cannabis does not affect your T levels.

There are a minority of studies which claim it can lower your T, but even most of those agree that it’s not by very much, and only for a short time.

Fertility seems be a different matter though, so maybe quit rolling joints if you’re hoping to be rolling a push chair in the near future soon. Cot before pot, bro.

Beyond that, it’s up to you. Reader’s choice. You can decide whether to pass on it or pass it on.

Write a comment

One Comment

  • Michael Phelps 14th February 2019

    Anybody want to go for a swim?