Last week, a 32-year-old man whose identity was spared was rushed to the emergency room twice, for painful erections. Doctors believe that his conditions may have been caused by marijuana use.
According to the Journal of Cannabis Research, he went to the hospital’s emergency room complaining of an erection that lasted for 12 hours and was unrelated to sexual activity.
Two weeks later, the same patient paid another visit to the emergency room – this time because of a six-hour erection.
The patient told doctors that he had smoked marijuana on and off throughout his life.
And he said the times when he was taking cannabis appeared to coincide with his uncomfortable erections.
The man admitted he had been smoking marijuana several nights a week for the past six months, and told doctors in that time he’d suffered “four or more episodes of a persistent erection lasting close to four hours”.
In each case, he had smoked within a two-hour period before getting his erection.
Long-lasting Painful Erection
Doctors said: “He admitted a history of cannabis use at age sixteen and seventeen, during which time he had recurrent priapism lasting less than four hours and never requiring medical treatment.
“He quit cannabis use in his twenties, and during this period did not have any episodes of priapism.”
The doctors, said they examined the man and noted that “the patient was mildly hypertensive with an erect, swollen, and tender penis”.
And they added that he had “no medical history other than mild hypertension, he took no medications, and used only cannabis, supported by his urinary drug screen”.
And the team, from the Coliseum Medical Centers in Georgia, said it was “the first known case of cannabis-associated priapism in a patient where all other known causes of priapism have been excluded”.
They added: “The abstinence and subsequent use of cannabis were the only appreciable factors in this patient’s battle with recurrent unwanted erections.”
The report’s authors were left to speculate about how cannabis could have actually caused the patient’s sustained erections.
Among the possibilities they identified was that cannabinoids – the naturally occurring compounds found in cannabis – were affecting regulatory mechanisms that would otherwise signal an erection to end.
But urologist, Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, voiced skepticism, saying there’s little previous research to link marijuana use to priapism.
“Everything here is hypothetical until validated by research,” Brahmbhatt told Insider. “Marijuana is a vasodilator so it could lead to over-dilation of the penile vessels. Oftentimes marijuana can be tainted with other drugs/chemicals, so the additives could be the cause of the problem.”
“The concern is if the erection lasts more than four hours the penis can lose vital oxygen and nutrients,” Brahmbhatt says. “This can lead to pain, swelling, loss of future erections, and loss of the penis.”
What is Priapism?
Priapism is a long-lasting painful erection that can cause permanent damage to a penis if not treated quickly. The condition may get better on its own within 2 hours. Prompt treatment for priapism is usually needed to prevent tissue damage that may result in permanent erectile dysfunction and the inability to get or maintain an erection. Priapism most commonly affects men in their 30s and older.
Ischemic priapism, also called low-flow priapism is the more common type of priapism and is the result of blood not being able to leave the penis. Signs and symptoms include:
- Erection lasting more than four hours or unrelated to sexual interest or stimulation.
- Rigid penile shaft, but the tip of penis is soft.
- Progressive penile pain.
Also known as high-flow priapism and usually less painful than ischemic priapism, occurs when penile blood flow isn’t regulated appropriately.Signs and symptoms include:Erection lasting more than four hours or unrelated to sexual interest or stimulation
- Erect but not fully rigid penile shaft.Causes of priapism:
- Priapism most commonly affects people with sickle cell disease.
- Less common causes include:
- Blood-thinning medicines, like warfarin
- Some antidepressants
- Recreational drugs, like cannabis and cocaine
- Some medicines for high blood pressure
- Other blood disorders, like thalassaemia and leukaemia
- Some treatments for erection problems