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Cannabis smokers are not lazy or unmotivated, despite stereotypes

Cannabis use has long been associated with stereotypes of laziness and lack of motivation. However, a recent study challenges these preconceived notions, shedding new light on the everyday lives of chronic cannabis users.

Busting the lazy stoner myth

The intriguing research, led by Michael Inzlicht, a professor in the Department of Psychology at U of T Scarborough, was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The study surveyed 260 chronic cannabis users, defined as those who consume cannabis at least three times a week or more, to investigate the effects of getting high on their daily lives.

“There is a stereotype that chronic cannabis users are somehow lazy or unproductive,” says Inzlicht. “We found that’s not the case — their behaviors might change a bit in the moment while they’re high, but our evidence shows they are not lazy or lacking motivation at all.”

Getting high and getting things done

One of the most interesting findings of the study relates to motivation. The researchers examined participants’ willingness to exert effort in completing a task while high and found that they were just as motivated and willing to invest effort as when they were not under the influence of cannabis.

The study did reveal that getting high led to lower levels of self-regulation, an important trait for accomplishing tasks.

When chronic users were high, they exhibited behaviors such as increased impulsivity, less thoughtfulness, and less orderliness. However, these factors did not make them less hard-working, responsible, or able to focus.

Interestingly, the researchers discovered that chronic cannabis users experienced a boost in positive emotions like awe and gratitude. In addition, they reported a reduction in negative emotions such as fear and anxiety while high.

However, those who consumed cannabis more frequently experienced more negative emotions both while high and while sober.

No “weed hangover” helps debunk the cannabis stereotype

The study found no evidence of a “weed hangover,” meaning that chronic users did not experience a decline in emotional or motivational function the day after being high.

Professor Inzlicht runs the Work and Play Lab, which focuses on self-control, motivation, empathy, and the use of social media, digital devices, and recreational cannabis.

He emphasizes the importance of taking a neutral, clear-eyed approach to studying the effects of cannabis on chronic users in their everyday lives.

“Part of the motivation for this study is to take a neutral, clear-eyed approach to see how cannabis affects chronic users in their everyday lives,” Inzlicht explains.

Comparing alcohol and cannabis hangovers

Enduring the aftermath of a night of drinking

Alcohol hangovers are a well-known phenomenon, characterized by a range of unpleasant symptoms that occur after a night of heavy drinking. These symptoms often include headaches, nausea, fatigue, dehydration, and sensitivity to light and sound.

The severity of an alcohol hangover depends on various factors, such as the amount and type of alcohol consumed, as well as individual tolerance levels.

The primary cause of alcohol hangovers is dehydration, as alcohol is a diuretic that promotes the production of urine. Additionally, alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach, leading to inflammation and the production of stomach acids, which can contribute to nausea and vomiting.

Aftermath of cannabis use

In contrast to alcohol hangovers, the concept of a “weed hangover” is less clearly defined. While some cannabis users report experiencing residual effects the day after heavy use, these effects are generally milder and less debilitating than those associated with alcohol hangovers.

Research on the topic is limited, but some studies suggest that heavy cannabis use may lead to symptoms such as fatigue, dry mouth, and mild cognitive impairment the following day.

However, these effects are not universally experienced by all users and may depend on factors such as the amount and potency of cannabis consumed, as well as individual tolerance levels.

Unlike alcohol, cannabis does not cause dehydration or significant inflammation in the body, which may explain why cannabis hangovers are typically less severe than alcohol hangovers.

Hard-working, motivated, and high: Can you be all three?

While this study is not an endorsement of heavy cannabis use, and there is ample research highlighting the risks associated with heavy use, especially among adolescents, it provides valuable insights into the experiences of regular users.

Statistics Canada data shows that nearly one in 10 adult Canadians are regular cannabis users, coming from all walks of life.

Despite its increased legal and social acceptance, relatively little is known about the everyday experiences of these individuals.

“Our data suggests that you can be hard-working, motivated and a chronic cannabis user at the same time,” concludes Inzlicht.

Taking cannabis into the future by ditching stereotypes

In summary, this eye-opening study challenges deeply entrenched stereotypes about chronic cannabis users, revealing that they can be just as motivated, hard-working, and capable of exerting effort as non-users.

By taking a neutral, unbiased approach to examining the everyday experiences of regular cannabis users, Professor Michael Inzlicht and his team at the Work and Play Lab have opened the door to a more nuanced understanding of the effects of cannabis on individuals’ lives.

As cannabis gains increasing legal and social acceptance, this research underscores the importance of moving beyond outdated stereotypes and focusing on evidence-based insights to inform our perceptions and policies surrounding cannabis use.

The full study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.


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