AFRICA – A 32-year-old man who had unbearable erections lasting several hours is likely to have a condition caused by regular cannabis use, scientists say.
It is thought to be the first case of marijuana-related priapism in a patient where all other known causes have been excluded.
If left untreated, the condition causing persistent erections with no sexual stimulation can permanently damage the penis.
Scientists studied the unusual case after an African American man went to the Coliseum Medical Centers twice in two weeks complaining of erections lasting 12 and six hours.
The patient told doctors he smoked weed ‘several nights per week for the past six months’, including within the two hours before his priapism episodes.
In that time he had at least four erections lasting around four hours which eventually went down on their own, according to the Journal of Cannabis Research.
At each visit doctors at the hospital in Macon, Georgia, injected him with phenylephrine to make his erection subside.
The man told medics that he started smoking cannabis at 16 years old and started having hours long erections.
But after he stopped using the drug in his twenties he found he never had an episode of priapism. He told doctors he had no history of mental illness and never took prescribed or over-the-counter medications and had no medical history other than mild hypertension.
As well as illegal drugs like cocaine priapism can also be triggered by prescription drugs including anti-depressants.
The man also had no history of sickle-cell anaemia, which along with other diseases like diabetes can also trigger episodes of persistent erections.
Researchers could not say why the patient’s priapism was caused by cannabis but they claimed there was a ‘convincing correlation’ between the two.
One of the theories suggested by researchers included chemicals in the plant turning off brain signals that bring normal erections to an end.
They also said blood vessels tend to dilate when using marijuana, so a change in circulation around the body could also have caused the patient’s priapism.
Suggesting this could be one case of many, the researchers said:
‘Because cannabis is the most widely used illicit substance, its link to priapism suggests it may soon become more prominent within the emergency department.’