Cannabis use was associated with a higher level of prosocial behaviours and empathy for others.
A new study suggests that consuming cannabis may actually make you a nicer person – and could have wider societal benefits.
A recent study, led by researchers at the The University of New Mexico, showed that healthy young adults who had recently been exposed to cannabis, exhibited higher levels of prosocial behaviours and heightened sense of empathy than those who had not.
This is among the first studies to show psychosocial, non-clinical benefits of cannabis use among healthy young adults.
Investigators analysed the psychological functioning of healthy college students with varying levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their urine.
Compared to non-users, young adults with recent exposure to cannabis scored significantly higher on standardised measurements of prosocial behaviours, empathy, and moral decision-making founded on principles of ensuring harmlessness and sense of fairness.
The findings are published in the journal, Scientific Reports.
“Most investigations on the effects of using cannabis have focused on either negative consequences of cannabis addiction or on the physical health effects of cannabis use,” said lead investigator and Assistant Professor Jacob Miguel Vigil, UNM Department of Psychology.
“Almost no formal scientific attention has been devoted to understanding other psychological and behavioural effects of consuming the plant, despite it being so widely used throughout human history.”
The recent findings suggest that cannabis may cause a shift from more ego-centric self-concepts to a heightened sense of selflessness and responsibility to protect others from harm.
Among men, cannabis users also scored higher on the “agreeableness” dimension of personality.
Most of the observed differences in the prosociality measures between cannabis users and non-users were correlated with the duration of time since the participants last used cannabis, suggesting the effects are transient.
Co-author and associate professor Sarah Stith, UNM Department of Economics, said: “The transience of the effects supports that cannabis is triggering behavioural and perceptual changes rather than that cannabis users and non-user differ fundamentally in their baseline approaches to social interactions.”
Cannabis users and non-users did not show differences in measurements of anger, hostility, trust of others, facial threat interpretation, the other four remaining dimensions of personality (extraversion, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness), or moral decision-making founded on principles of respecting authority and preserving the concept of purity.
Professor Vigil continued: “I often refer to the Cannabis plant as a super medication, relative to most other conventional pharmaceutical products, because it is not only effective for treating the symptoms of a wide range of health conditions, quickly and relatively safely, but now we have concrete evidence that it may also help improve the average person’s psychosocial health.”
He added:”Prosociality is essential to society’s overall cohesiveness and vitality, and therefore, cannabis’ effects on our interpersonal interactions may eventually prove to be even more important to societal wellbeing than its medicinal effects.”
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