Steve Parcell, ND
On January 1st marijuana became legal to purchase in Colorado with or without a medical prescription. As marijuana is now legal in Boulder I have seen I slight increase in concerns about breast enlargement (gynecomastia) in men. Speculation that men who smoke pot are prone to develop abnormal breast tissue or “man boobs” has been around for decades. The first scientific paper examining the clinical impact of the drug’s active ingredient, THC, on hormonal systems was published in 1972 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The 1972 study found that the drug has “widespread effects on multiple hormonal systems, including gonadal, adrenal, prolactin, growth hormone, and thyroid hormone regulation.” When the drug throws off the normal balance of hormones, estrogen levels rise and stimulate breast tissue growth.
Some men are more susceptible to gynecomastia than others. Smoking pot can lower testosterone levels for 24 hours. After just one joint, some patients have reported feeling swelling and puffiness around the nipple.
Adolescents who use anabolic steroids, or who abuse alcohol, marijuana, heroin, or amphetamines may develop gynecomastia. Treatment includes discontinuation of the offending drug or decreasing usage as well as looking at other causes. Very rarely is surgical intervention required. I recommend checking hormones levels especially testosterone and estrogen to look for imbalances in patients concerned with this issue. Various natural treatments exist for this condition. If estrogen is high natural aromatase inhibitors can be used. If testosterone is low treatment is aimed at determining the cause of the low testosterone. If pituitary or testicular failure is present testosterone may be prescribed.