Marijuana and alcohol can both have physical and psychological effects on sex, but alcohol may lead to riskier behaviors, according to a new, preliminary study. Researchers at New York University's Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), interviewed 24 volunteers in New York City aged 18 to 35 about their perceived experiences having sex while under the influence of marijuana or alcohol.
One of the most notable differences cited by participants in the study was that, under the influence of alcohol, more disastrous situations occurred, including regrettable one-night stands.
Joseph J. Palamar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center and lead author of the study, says that while many may not think men would regret a one night stand, "a lot of men we interviewed did express regret because they weren't attracted to the person in the morning."
"Alcohol makes people seem more attractive than they normally would seem, and though the study found that to be true with marijuana as well, it wasn't to the same extent as with alcohol," says Palamar.
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One 31-year-old woman interviewed for the study stated, "When you're drunk, you might be like, 'Damn, he looks mad good.' Then you wake up, you're like, 'What the hell did I do? Why are we naked in my bed?' I think if it was weed only I would've been, 'Maybe this is a good stopping point.'"
On the flip side, a 22-year-old female participant reported the same experience while using marijuana. "[They] should be called 'weed goggles' because it's much worse on marijuana than on alcohol," she said.
Some participants described their sexual acts as different based on whether they were high or drunk. Alcohol appeared to lead to kinkier sex for some participants, while others felt more of an emotional connection with marijuana. A 34-year-old woman explained that while on marijuana, "I'm very sensual, as opposed to when I'm drunk—I'm just like, 'Give it to me.' Ripping close [sic] off."
The substances also led to post-sex feelings that differed among the people interviewed. "I want to cook the person something to eat [after sex] when I'm high," said one 33-year-old male. "When I'm drunk, it's like, 'I'm out of here.' Or, 'Get away from me.'"
Multiple participants said they felt more satisfied and "chill" after sex on marijuana, and two participants said they experienced desire for a second encounter while on the drug. For alcohol, regret was the most commonly reported post-coital emotion.
The substances had physical side effects as well—male impotence was mentioned for men drinking alcohol, while vaginal dryness was reported as a symptom of marijuana. One woman said she had never orgasmed during sex on weed, while others said they had more intense orgasms.
"With regard to hookups, some people are less likely to hook up with a stranger when high, whereas a lot of alcohol makes a person more likely to hook up with people they didn't already know," says Palamar. However, Palamar emphasizes that the study does not claim marijuana use is better than alcohol, and that both substances come with risks as related to sexual encounters. One of his primary concerns, he says, is consent and sexual assault.
"If you're completely wasted, you don't know what could happen," he said. "If someone is drunk, bad things can happen, especially if you're alone. The same goes for any drug, including marijuana."
Palamar says that despite these finding, this study was merely preliminary—hence the small sample size. Much more research needs to be done to quantify their findings across genders and sexual identities, as well as to look at how substances can affect condom use and how using alcohol and weed simultaneously might affect sexual encounters.