The Science of ‘Weed Goggles’

Cannabis has the capacity to make potential romantic partners seem hotter than they are — sometimes to a greater extent than alcohol

When I became single after a long-term relationship, the first person I hit on was my hot weed delivery guy. He would linger and let me sample other strains, but I mistook his salesmanship for flirting. And so, I eventually made a move: a conspicuous hand on the leg. He responded by mentioning his likely fictional girlfriend and left. I was embarrassed and out $60. My roommate tried to comfort me: “He’s not hot, you’re just high,” she said. 

Well aware of alcohol’s power to make people appear more attractive, I’d never considered the same effect with weed. But if people can wear beer goggles, can we fall victim to “green goggles” as well? 

“The phenomenon of weed goggles is absolutely something that some people claim to experience,” clinical biologist and science writer Gaurav Dubey explains, pointing to a recent study in The Archives of Sexual Behavior. For it, scientists conducted detailed interviews with men and women who had sex after smoking weed or getting drunk about their experiences; they found that weed goggles may actually be the better of the two intoxication glasses. 

“When I’m high, the people I’m attracted to, I’m not at all attracted to sober,” said one study participant, identified as a 22-year-old white female. “[They] should be called ‘weed goggles.’”

“I’ve come to realize that somebody that I wouldn’t normally fuck while I was sober, I probably would fuck them while I was high,” a 35-year-old Black male added. 

While their inhibitions and standards were similarly lowered with alcohol, respondents reported fewer instances of unprotected sex, one-night stands, awkward mornings and amorous experiences they generally regretted when they smoked weed instead of drinking. Moreover, since people are more likely to smoke weed with individuals they already know and trust, participants were less likely to see strangers as hot; instead, cannabis cast existing romantic partners, friends and acquaintances in a more appealing light. (This could change, though, as cannabis laws throughout the country shift toward decriminalization and legalization, and people start getting high with more strangers.) 

In my defense, too, there’s evidence that weed goggles might be stronger for women. For example, research has revealed that when women smoke weed, it increases their libido and leads to more satisfactory orgasms. (Of course, this doesn’t mean cannabis altered their perceptions of how hot men were, which is harder to pin down.) Also in my favor, a different study found that THC impairs users’ ability to read emotions — for example, misreading my dealer’s vibes. Along those lines, when cannabis users overdo it, it can cause anxiety and paranoia that makes familiar faces appear off or strange (admittedly, the exact opposite of green goggles). “Marijuana can make users feel anxious, and if one is feeling unsure about their partner or not that attracted to them, these feelings may manifest in how they’re visually interpreting their partner’s appearance,” sociologist and sexologist Sarah Melancon warns. 

It’s worth noting that alcohol doesn’t actually change how people look: That can be blamed on forgiving bar lighting. What experts are sure of, however, is that both weed and booze makes most people feel sexier and more confident, regardless of gender. But if two people with lowered inhibitions are shooting their shot at the same time, weed goggles appear to be the safer alternative — as long as you don’t try them with the hot delivery guy.