Four-twenty, say hello to ménage à uno. Apparently you already know each other.
Whether derived from cannabis plants (phyto-) or produced organically in the body (endo-), cannabinoids activate CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). According to a new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, masturbating and smoking cannabis both increase endocannabinoid levels and activate the same receptors in the ECS.
A group of German researchers came to this conclusion via two studies: One measured endocannabinoid and cortisol levels before and after masturabation, while the other compared the masturbation experience with a single-blinded control condition. The first study found that masturbatory orgasms increased the levels of 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), an endocannabinoid that binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, whereas other biochemical levels (anandamide, cortisol, etc.) remained the same. The second study saw the same increase in 2-AG, which did not occur in the control.
2-AG is closely affiliated with cannabis. Cannabidiol (CBD) actually doesn't bind to ECS receptors but rather limits the breakdown of 2-AG in the body. This increases 2-AG levels and stimulates the receptors.
"Our data indicate that the endocannabinoid 2-AG is involved in the human sexual response cycle, and we hypothesize that 2-AG release plays a role in the rewarding consequences of sexual arousal and orgasm," the researchers concluded. "Endocannabinoids might play an important role in the sexual response cycle, leading to possible implications for the understanding and treatment of sexual dysfunctions."
Now all this begs the question: Why don't I get stoned when I masturbate?
Well, you'd probably get stoned O.T.-style if Mike Pence made the laws, but the reason you don't get 420-stoned has to do with the different types of endocannabinoids. 2-AG can have a positive effect on mood, sleep, pain reduction and neuroprotection, but anandamide is the endocannabinoid associated with pleasure and that most closely mimics tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As noted in the study, anandamide levels did not increase when participants masturbated to climax.
The study concluded that "the exact role of endocannabinoid release as part of the sexual response cycle and the biological significance of the finding should be studied further." In other words, don't be surprised if a researcher asks to study your marijuana and masturbation habits. The request could be legit!
Photo credit: Maggie Gyllenhaal (looking stoned) in Secretary.