Your parents might have given you a lot of reasons not to try drugs. Most of them are likely to be very wise and should be listened to attentively. But one old excuse has just been busted. New research from Harvard has found that smoking marijuana increases sperm count in males.
The team of researchers led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health collected semen samples from 662 men between 2000 and 2017 with an average age of 36. The volunteers were asked whether they had ever smoked more than two joints or the equivalent amount of marijuana in their lives and if they were current smokers.
Smokers recorded higher sperm counts
Fifty-five percent of the men said they had smoked marijuana at some point, with 44 percent doing so in the past and 11 percent being current users. The surprising results of the study indicated that marijuana smokers had higher sperm counts than the men who had never used the drug.
The drugs users recorded an average count of 62.7 million sperm per millimeter compared to 45.4 million in the sober men. Additionally, only 5 percent of marijuana smokers had sperm counts below the level considered healthy by the World Health Organisation, whereas 12 percent of non-smokers did.
Higher testosterone linked to drug use
Blood tests of the subjects were also recorded with the smokers recording on average higher levels of testosterone than their counterparts. The researchers are quick to point out that despite the seemingly clear results, the research does have its limitations and that smoking pot shouldn’t be used as a fertility aid. There does exist other research that has shown drug taking as being linked to infertility.
“These unexpected findings highlight how little we know about the reproductive health effects of marijuana, and in fact of the health effects of marijuana in general,” explained study co-author Jorge Chavarro in a statement. “Our results need to be interpreted with caution, and they highlight the need to study the health effects of marijuana use further.”
The study has flaws but provides a starting point
One key aspect of the study is that the men self-reported their drug use which makes it difficult to understand dosage levels truly. The men used in the study were also enrolled in fertility clinics and were all college educated white males. The study would need to be redone using a broader sample of participants to get truly scientifically viable results.
"Our findings were contrary to what we initially hypothesized,” said lead author Feiby Nassan. “However, they are consistent with two different interpretations, the first being that low levels of marijuana use could benefit sperm production because of its effect on the endocannabinoid system, which is known to play a role in fertility, but those benefits are lost with higher levels of marijuana consumption."
“An equally plausible interpretation is that our findings could reflect the fact that men with higher testosterone levels are more likely to engage in risk-seeking behaviors, including smoking marijuana," he continued.
The team summarizes their research saying that it might be true that moderate marijuana use may improve testicular function, but any benefits are likely to disappear at higher doses. In conclusion, smoking pot won’t make you into a baby-making machine, but a little bit might help you get started.