Marijuana, phytocannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and male fertility

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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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Correspondence to Ashok Agarwal.

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Capsule We highlight the latest evidence regarding the effect of marijuana use on male fertility and provide a detailed insight into its significance in the male reproductive system. Marijuana and its compounds can influence male fertility at multiple levels by acting through both the cannabinoid and vanilloid receptors.

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du Plessis, S.S., Agarwal, A. & Syriac, A. Marijuana, phytocannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and male fertility. J Assist Reprod Genet 32, 1575–1588 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10815-015-0553-8

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Keywords

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