The psychological functioning of healthy college students with varying levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their urine was studied by researchers at the University of New Mexico. Young adults who had recently been exposed to cannabis performed much better on standardized measures of prosocial behaviors, empathy, and moral decision-making based on principles of assuring harmlessness and feeling of justice when compared to non-users.
The UNM researchers found that healthy young adults who had recently taken cannabis demonstrated higher prosocial behaviors and a heightened sense of empathy than those who had not. Their study, “Cannabis Consumption and Prosociality,” was published in the journal Scientific Reports. This is one of the first studies to suggest that cannabis use has psychosocial and non-clinical benefits in healthy young adults.
“Most studies on the impacts of cannabis usage have focused on either the negative repercussions of cannabis addiction or the physical health implications of cannabis use,” stated lead investigator and UNM Department of Psychology Assistant Professor Jacob Miguel Vigil.
“Despite its widespread use throughout human history, little formal scientific effort has been paid to understanding additional psychological and behavioral impacts of ingesting the plant.”
According to the current study, cannabis may trigger a shift away from ego-centric self-concepts and toward a greater sense of altruism and responsibility to protect others from harm. Cannabis users also scored better on the ” agreeableness ” personality characteristic among men. Most observed variations in prosociality measures between cannabis users and non-users were connected with the period since the subjects last used cannabis, implying that the benefits are temporary.
“The transience of the results suggests that cannabis is causing behavioral and perceptual alterations rather than that cannabis users and non-users have fundamentally different baseline approaches to social interactions,” said co-author and UNM Department of Economics Associate Professor Sarah Stith.
There were no differences between cannabis users and non-users in measures of anger, hostility, trust in others, facial threat interpretation, the remaining four dimensions of personality (extraversion, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness), or moral decision-making based on principles of respecting authority and preserving the concept of purity.
“I am honored to be a part of this groundbreaking research showing that cannabis may have significant societal benefits,” said co-author Tiphanie Chanel of the University of New Mexico’s Department of Psychology. “I hope that this work can help pave the way for more fully exploring the effects of cannabis on human interactions and wellbeing.”
“In comparison to most other conventional pharmaceutical products, I often refer to the Cannabis plant as a super medication because it is not only effective for treating the symptoms of a wide range of health conditions quickly and relatively safely, but we now have concrete evidence that it may also help improve the average person’s psychosocial health.” “Vigil stated.
“Because prosociality is so critical to society’s overall cohesiveness and vibrancy, cannabis’ impacts on our interpersonal interactions may prove to be even more important to societal health than its therapeutic effects in the future.”