The findings contradict the belief that consuming THC has a negative effect on male reproductive health.
A new study published in the scientific journal Biochemical Pharmacology presents evidence that the chronic use of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has no negative effects on male reproductive processes.
THC is the intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis plants like marijuana. Like all cannabinoids, THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a major signaling network that is involved in the regulation of many processes, including the production of sperm and sperm function.
While results have been conflicting, some previous research has suggested that long-term use of THC products by males is associated with sperm abnormalities, decreases in the movement and swimming of sperm, and structural changes to the testis. The consensus has been that THC’s actions on the endocannabinoid system’s cannabinoid receptors in the testes alter reproductive processes. However, the findings in this new study dispute that earlier data.
In the new study, researchers from Spain and Colombia evaluated the effect of chronic THC on the reproductive health of mice. One group was injected with a daily dose of 10mg/kg-body weight THC for 30 days, while the other served as a control group.
The researchers were specifically looking to find whether THC affects the ability of sperm to fertilize and to generate embryos. While the researchers found that the THC group showed a significant decrease of in the expression of the endocannabinoid system’s cannabinoid 1 receptors (CB1) compared to the control group, there was no impact to the expression of CB1 receptors in the testis.
The study showed that the mice given daily THC experienced no negative reproductive effects. Specifically, it found that:
- THC caused no change in the weight or structure of testis and epididymis
- THC caused no observable changes in the concentration of sperm or the ability of sperm to swim
- THC did not generate any methylation change in the embryos generated by in vitro fertilization (IVF)
- THC caused no change in embryo production by IVF
Overall, the sperm of the mice given THC were equally successful as controls in producing embryos.
“This work contradicts the belief that THC consumption has a negative effect on male reproductive processes,” the study concluded.
The full text of the study, “Effect of chronic THC administration in the reproductive organs of male mice, spermatozoa and in vitro fertilization, is available to access through Science Direct.
Increasing Use of Medical Marijuana
In the study’s abstract, the researchers make note of the importance of studying cannabis’s potential impact on reproductive health because of the increased use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
Since 1996, 30 states in the U.S. have passed laws allowing the use of medical marijuana, and there are now more than 50 diseases and conditions that cannabis has been legalized for nationwide.
In medical marijuana states, patients who are diagnosed with a qualifying condition and obtain a doctor’s recommendation can legally obtain and use cannabis. There are currently an estimated 2.2 million patients in the U.S. who use medical marijuana through their state’s program.