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This Side Effect of Cannabis May Surprise You, Says New Study

People who recently used cannabis exhibited more "prosocial behavior".
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Could using cannabis make you a better person? That's the suggestion of a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, which found that people who had recently used cannabis exhibited more "prosocial behavior"—such as displaying empathy, helping others, and engaging in community service—than people who hadn't. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

What the Study Found

Woman with a cannabis leaf in front of her face.
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"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 study author Jacob Miguel Vigil, a psychology professor at the University of New Mexico. "Almost no formal scientific attention has been devoted to understanding other psychological and behavioral effects of consuming the plant, despite it being so widely used throughout human history."

In the study, researchers asked subjects to complete various psychological tests encompassing traits like empathy, trust, and prosocial behaviors. They also tested the urine of those participants for evidence of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

The scientists found that using cannabis may make people less self-centered and more focused on helping others and protecting them from harm. Male cannabis users exhibited more agreeableness than non-users. 

2

Use Pot, Be More Social and Happy?

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"Our results are … consistent with research showing the acute THC intoxication is usually associated with dampened aggression, and positively related to subjective feelings of openness, peace, joy, wonder, spirituality, and a heightened sense of connection to the universe," wrote the study's authors. They noted that previous research estimated that frequent cannabis use can increase an individual's sociability by 68.4%, thinking profoundly by 31.4%, happiness by 16.1%, feeling nice or pleasant by 20.9%, insight into others by 11.9%, and insight into oneself or personal growth by 8.7%.

3

Effects Are Transient

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The researchers also found that the personality differences between cannabis users and non-users were associated with the time since cannabis was used, suggesting the effects are temporary. "The transience of the effects supports that cannabis is triggering behavioral and perceptual changes rather than that cannabis users and non-user differ fundamentally in their baseline approaches to social interactions," said study co-author Sarah Stith of the UNM department of economics.

4

Give Pot a Chance?

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The study noted that cannabis has often been found to have physical medicinal benefits, but research on its potential social and psychological benefits is in its infancy. "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," said study co-author Tiphanie Chanel of the UNM psychology department. 

And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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