Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics

, Volume 32, Issue 11, pp 1575–1588 | Cite as

Marijuana, phytocannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and male fertility

  • Stefan S. du Plessis
  • Ashok AgarwalEmail author
  • Arun Syriac
Review Article


Marijuana has the highest consumption rate among all of the illicit drugs used in the USA, and its popularity as both a recreational and medicinal drug is increasing especially among men of reproductive age. Male factor infertility is on the increase, and the exposure to the cannabinoid compounds released by marijuana could be a contributing cause. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is deeply involved in the complex regulation of male reproduction through the endogenous release of endocannabinoids and binding to cannabinoid receptors. Disturbing the delicate balance of the ECS due to marijuana use can negatively impact reproductive potential. Various in vivo and in vitro studies have reported on the empirical role that marijuana plays in disrupting the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis, spermatogenesis, and sperm function such as motility, capacitation, and the acrosome reaction. In this review, we highlight the latest evidence regarding the effect of marijuana use on male fertility and also provide a detailed insight into the ECS and its significance in the male reproductive system.


Male infertility Marijuana Spermatozoa Endocannabinoid system Testosterone LH FSH Estrogen Sperm motility Sperm viability 



This work was supported by financial assistance from the American Center for Reproductive Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, USA, the Harry Crossley Foundation, and the NRF, South Africa.

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no relevant financial and competing interests.

Author contributions

S.S.D.P. conceived the idea, researched data, and wrote the article. All authors made substantial contributions to the discussion of content and reviewed/edited the manuscript before submission.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan S. du Plessis
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ashok Agarwal
    • 2
    Email author
  • Arun Syriac
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Medical Physiology, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesStellenbosch UniversityTygerbergSouth Africa
  2. 2.American Center for Reproductive MedicineCleveland ClinicClevelandUSA

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