Roll up! Can smoking weed increase empathy?

3 mins
14 Jun 2022
Roll up! Can smoking weed increase empathy?

A new study finds cannabis users to be less aggressive and more kind

words Eve Walker

Researchers at the University of Mexico have found evidence that cannabis helps to develop positive attributes in users. According to the recent study, ingesting weed increases “the intentional act of advancing the well-being of other people”.

This is one of the first studies to show a direct correlation between nonmedical cannabis use and positive psychological benefits in young adults. Lead author of the study, Jacob Vigil, seeks to reframe current discourse around cannabis: “They [society] see cannabis users as unmotivated, or they see them as addicted, or perhaps believe that they are losing sight of their goals … It’s never really been approached objectively to see what’s going on before making negative interpretations.”

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For the study, college students between 18-25 years old were given various psychological tests, urine samples and assessments. They were then given questionnaires on moral foundations, aggression, pro social behaviour, and facial threat perceptions to measure the effects of cannabis.

Vigil explains the results, “We found that folks that had recently used cannabis showed higher levels of pro-social behaviors, and higher measurements of empathy”. Cannabis users in the study showed higher levels of moral foundations, “These are basically the types of ideals that we think about when we justify what is right and what is wrong.”

The science behind it

Consuming cannabis creates positive feelings by activating the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate stress. Aggression is caused by low levels of naturally occurring endocannabinoid in the body, so smoking or ingesting cannabis can contribute to users feeling more relaxed, happy and at peace. In contrast, substances like alcohol leave users feeling more aggressive and hostile.

Frequent cannabis use has been shown to increase sociability by 68.4%, profound thinking by 31.4%, happiness by 16.1%, and feeling pleasant by 20.9%.

According to a 2006 study, there is a correlation between consuming cannabis and feeling less motivated to go to work. Yet while society often paints stoners as lazy, Vigil explains how this trait of being less materialistic has been misconstrued, “Cannabis users’ brains are less likely to light up when they are shown a depiction of dollar signs compared to non-users. People that don’t use cannabis get more excited when they see a dollar sign, and that has been interpreted by addiction researchers as a negative thing.”

Next time someone calls you a slacker for smoking a spliff, you can now say that weed actually makes users more empathetic, relaxed, and uninterested in being a cog in the capitalist system. Science says so.

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