October 15 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 25  

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Weed can kill your "little soldiers"

By Jonathan Yazer
Gazette Writer

A new study indicates excessive use of the leafy green plant renowned at universities for its positive medicinal and psychedelic attributes may pose a threat to human conception and procreation.

“The study showed that the volume of semen of men smoking marijuana was down compared to normal men and that these men had significantly fewer sperm,” said Lani Burkman, a research assistant professor of gynecology, obstetrics and urology at the State University of New York in Buffalo, who led the study. “More importantly, the sperm had a couple of wacky things. The sperm were behaving abnormally — swimming too fast, too early. They were swimming with more velocity than those of fertile men.”

Burkman stressed a specific concern over the impact of smoking weed on people already having fertility difficulties: “For anyone who has a naturally diminished chance at fertilization, this will really hit them,” she said.

Richard Peirson, chair of communications for the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, having read an abstract of the report, noted although this was not the first study of its kind, it was nonetheless unique. “It was the first to show the direct effects of marijuana on sperm at a molecular level,” he said.

Peirson said marijuana is not the only danger to male fertility. “Any opiate reduces fertility and enhances puberty. Most illicit, recreational drugs have quite well-documented effects on fertility.”

Cigarettes are also seen as being detrimental. “Marijuana and tobacco, if ingested as a smoke, have similar effects. If you smoke tobacco, half of your sperm will be non-functional,” Peirson explained.
Burkman said the federally-regulated study looked at the sperm of 22 men who were smoking an average of 14 times per week for at least five years and compared it to the sperm of healthy men who were not lighting up.

Using marijuana as a kind of birth control or family planning method, however, would be a poor choice. “That would be really bad,” Peirson said.

Ben Martin, a third-year sociology student at King’s University College, said his male friends who smoke marijuana would not be deterred upon hearing about the study. “They’re just not considering that right now at this time in their lives. They’re having fun,” he said.
Although he would not admit to smoking weed himself, Martin said even if he did he would not care about the possibility of reduced fertility. “I’ve got a lot of sperm.”



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