Recreational drug use and sex have a storied history together.
At some point or another, virtually every drug has been tried in conjunction with sexual activity, and each drug has its own unique physiological and psychological effects. Maybe the 70s were prime time for experimenting with drugs, but don’t be fooled: getting high and having sex is as popular today as ever.
“The obvious [reason] is that the feelings caused by the drug are going to enhance the experience in certain cases,” explained Riley Hinson, a psychology professor at Western who researches drug-taking behaviour in humans. “In other cases [drugs] are used as a social lubricant, a way to reduce inhibitions.”
Alcohol, often passed over in discussion of recreational drugs, is the most widely available — and only legal — drug that might be classified as such a social lubricant.
“People do have an expectation with alcohol of increased sociability and sexuality,” Hinson said, putting into words what many Western students could already attest to.
Hinson also explained alcohol is not used to increase or enhance sexual function — he notes its actual effects may be the opposite.
“Drugs that might be used specifically to enhance the sexual experience include the nitrites, or poppers as they are called. These are drugs which do things like increase vasodilation, which will increase penile engorgement. They also have relaxing effects on sphincter muscles,” Hinson added. “Methamphetamine is a drug which is also associated with enhanced and increased sexual function. Ecstasy’s effects on sex are a little less clear.”
The most widely available recreational drug, marijuana, is unique in that it is used both as a way to reduce inhibitions and to improve sex.
“[Pot] is considered a way to break the ice ... it also induces some physical sensations in a way alcohol does not, in addition to its psychological effects,” Hinson said.
In an article from Cannabis Culture magazine, Terry Necco noted: “Being stoned or sexually aroused both produce similar physiological responses, such as increased heart rate, heightened sensitivity, changes in blood flow and respiration and relaxation.”
This is not purely coincidental. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC, the active chemical in weed — is in the same family of organic molecules as anandamide, a chemical found in the human brain that is associated with feelings of bliss such as those released during sex. So on a molecular level, getting laid and getting stoned aren’t too different.
According to Necco, being high also lets two people connect on an emotional level as well: “People feel they become more loving [and] more willing to pay attention to the technical aspects of love-making and foreplay, which women complain is often missing from [the] male sexual repertoire.”
Another drug often associated with enhancing sexual performance is cocaine. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, cocaine “makes people feel energetic, talkative, alert and euphoric. They feel more aware of their senses: sound, touch, sight and sexuality seem heightened.”
Just as with marijuana, there is a scientific explanation: “Cocaine increases the same chemicals in the brain that make people feel good when they eat, drink or have sex.”
“Cocaine has the strongest links amongst users with not just prolonged sex but also exploring unusual and exciting sex and enhancing sensations during sex,” according to a study authored by Mark Bellis at Liverpool John Moores University in England. “To a large extent it is the modern aphrodisiac.”
But is there one substance that appears to stand above the others as the sex drug? Probably not. Alcohol is excellent at breaking the ice, marijuana is the easiest illicit drug to come by and cocaine gives unmatched energy in bed.
As Hinson said, “Every drug at one point or another has been called the ‘love drug.’”
Every drug complements sex in a different way, for better or worse — and it isn’t likely people will stop getting high and getting it on any time soon.