By Dr. G. Shreekumar Menon
Mangaluru, Feb 27, 2021: Despite innumerable awareness campaigns, extensive advertisements, and tough laws, the immense popularity of illicit drugs is increasing across the world. Youngsters in large numbers are wanting to experience the feeling of smoking Cannabis and Hashish, because of its rumored aphrodisiac qualities. Teenagers in large numbers are using Cannabis, Hashish and Marijuana, more than ever before in human history. Both, Cannabis and Hashish, are products of the Cannabis Sativa plant. Cannabis is also called weed, pot or ganja, while Hashish is the sap of the plant and Cannabis is the dried flower buds of the female plant. However, Hashish contains a greater proportion of psychoactive chemicals.
In many civilizations, Cannabis has been used for thousands of years for many purposes, and many cultures and subcultures worldwide have explored its value for sex throughout history. Cannabis has been considered as an aphrodisiac in the folk medicine traditions of many cultures around the world.
In India, the Hindu Tantric rites involved the consumption of Cannabis for attaining a state of enlightenment through sexual practices. Cannabis users experience enhancement of their imaginative abilities. This enhancement or ‘high’ affects a whole range of cognitive and physiological functions, from episodic memory, attention, and pattern recognition to the alteration of sense of time, the perception of our body, imagination, creative thinking, and empathic understanding. Additionally, the high can bring an anxiolytic effect, which helps to overcome moral and other inhibitions. This can be a major factor for entering a true energetic sexual flow, andthis is what attracts many youngsters to explore the world of drugs.
Users experience a strange feeling of separation from the past and future, a remarkable feeling of floating. Time seems to slow down during a high. This perceptual slowdown of time can lead to a prolonged sensation of orgasm and a prolonged sensation of the whole experience of lovemaking.
Hence, using Cannabis and Hashish has become an integral part of youth culture. It is commonplace for young drug users to use several different psychoactive substances, apart from Hashish and Cannabis. The terms `poly-drug’ or `multiple drug’ use has been used to describe this behaviour although their exact definitions vary. Different drugs are used for different effects. Thus, stimulant drugs (such asamphetamines, ecstasy or cocaine) will be used for reasons relating to increased nervous system arousal and drugs with sedative effects (such as alcohol or cannabis), with nervous system depression. Thus, today’s youth consume cannabis, amphetamine, ecstasy, LSD, cocaine hydrochloride and alcohol for experiencing enhanced sexual activity. These drugs enjoy a reputation as sex enhancing drugs. Youth typically gravitate towards these drugs because they can help increase sensitivity, lift mood, and intensify orgasm.
While Cannabis remains a hot, all-time favourite,different unique strains of cannabis have flooded the market. The most sought after are the Malana Cream, Magic Mushrooms, Bombay black hash, Kashmir ice, Idukki gold, Mysore Mango, Shillong Mango, Golden Weed, Manipuri Weed, Gorbhanga Weed and so on.
Malana cream is one such strain known for its superior quality. Dubbed as ’super cream’, Indians and foreigners make their way to the tiny ancient village of Malana in Himachal Pradesh where this strain is cultivated and is reportedly the best in the world, selling at over $250 in Amsterdam coffee shops.
Malana strain is considered the purest and the best with a THC content of 30 to 40 percent and is known for the sweet happy high it gives the user. It is in the form of a black creamy sticky substance with a sweet charcoal smell.
The Ayurvedic names of cannabis are "vijaya" - ’the one who conquers’ and "siddhi" - ’subtle power’, ’achievement’. THC and the other cannabinoids, the most active constituents of cannabis, influence the physiology of sex in numerous ways.
Cannabinoids act on cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system, endocrine system, and in the sexual organs. In the brain, there are more cannabinoid receptors than any other type of neurotransmitter – more than serotonin, dopamine, GABA, etc. These receptors are found more abundantly in some areas than others, and shed light on how cannabis can affect sexuality. In the hippocampus, part of the brain’s temporal lobe, cannabinoids inhibit short-term memory, bringing people more into the present moment. Most of us spend an incredible amount of mental energy on thoughts of the future and the past – cannabis can help free up that thought power and bring it into the experience at hand, enhancing the five senses and intensifying the depths of sensuality. Cannabis also augments a process called fear-extinction, which is useful in forgetting adverse memories that may be limiting the present experience.
Cannabinoid receptors are also found in great abundance in the nucleus accumbens, which plays a role in the enjoyment of pleasurable activities such as eating, emotional reactions to music, and sex. Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is directly linked with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure centre. All drugs of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The brain chemical dopamine is recognized as the brain’s "pleasure chemical," sending signals between brain cells in a way that rewards a person for one activity or another. Dopamine is produced in response to sexual stimulation, and this gives the feel of enjoyment. It helps reinforce enjoyable sensations and behaviours by linking things that give pleasure with a desire to do them again. High levels of dopamine and a related hormone, norepinephrine, are released during sex. These chemicals make us energetic, and euphoric. Another chemical oxytocin, is also released during sex in large amounts. Hence, Oxytocin has been nicknamed as the ’cuddle hormone’. Like dopamine, oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus and released in large quantities during sex. Cannabis also influences the autonomic nervous system, a major player in sexual attraction, arousal, and orgasm. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol -- the cannabinoid THC -- appears to target a part of the human brain associated with sexual arousal, at least in females.
Ayurveda has remedies that use cannabis to treat a variety of sexual dysfunctions, including low libido and premature ejaculation. But too much cannabis, according to Ayurveda, can deplete the “ojas,” or core vitality, and decrease sexual potency. Cannabis can enhance one’s sex-life if used correctly, but it can also interfere. A small dose can be stimulating, while high doses may be too sedating or intoxicating to promote good sex. Animal and human studies also point to differences amongst genders, with females more consistently stimulated by cannabinoids, and males sometimes stimulated and sometimes inhibited.
Cannabis is a psychoactive drug and different people react differently to it. Research directly linking cannabis to sexual enjoyment is somewhat lacking. Hence there is no conclusive understanding of what cannabis is doing physiologically in the context of sex. Cannabis can impair your judgment and cause sedation if you take too much.
All these drugs make the brain go on an overdrive, however, psychotropic drugs pose a major threat to sexual function. Most psychotropic medication is reported to cause negative side effects on sexuality. The brain is the most important sexual organ. The interplay of the different structures of the brain involved in human sexuality is very intricate, comprising of neural structures, neurotransmitters and hormones. Sexuality is a bio–psycho–social phenomenon, a delicate system that is easily affected by all kinds of physical or mental illnesses, drugs, moods, situations, and, even other people. One such mind-altering drug is LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide, first synthesized in 1938, which is an extremely potent hallucinogen. It is synthetically made from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. It is so potent that it’s doses tend to be in the microgram (mcg) range. It’s effects, often called a "trip", can be stimulating, pleasurable, and mind-altering. Harvard professor Timothy Leary wrote in his book The Politics of Ecstasy : ‘There is no question that LSD is the most powerful aphrodisiac ever discovered by man.’
Methamphetamine is another drug linked to high risk sexual behaviour. When meth, like other amphetamines, is introduced into the body, it acts primarily on the reward centre of the brain, stimulating the release of monoamines – neurotransmitters that include dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which create pleasurable feelings. Meth’s duration of action – lasting up to twelve hours – makes the drug popular for prolonged sexual experiences. Methamphetamine overwhelms the brain’s ability by releasing a torrent of nearly 1100 units of dopamine, nearly three times that of cocaine. This power to heighten anticipatory desire quickly causes the brain to bond the drug with intense sexual fantasies. It binds with the user’s most secret desires and fantasies. It supercharges sexual drive and self-confidence while powerfully rewarding the pleasure of sex. This has led to the coining of a new term ‘Chemsex’. Chemsex involves the intentional use of methamphetamine, mephedrone and GHB/GBL - before or during sex, so as to facilitate, sustain and/or enhance the experience. Such long-lasting action also brings dangerous consequences, as it can lead to brain injury, and the drug-related high-risk sexual behaviour which can cause spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.
While conducting anti-drug awareness programs, it is necessary to educate the youth about refraining from using drugs that have a reputation of being sex-enhancers. Youth need to be cautioned about the untested and dangerous drugs being touted as sex enhancers in the market.
Dr. G. Shreekumar Menon IRS (Rtd) Ph.D: Former Director General of National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics & Multi-Disciplinary School Of Economic Intelligence India; Fellow, James Martin Centre For Non Proliferation Studies, USA; Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA; Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University, U.S.A.; AOTS Scholar, Japan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org