Study: Cannabis Consumers More Empathetic, Moral, and Pro-Social than Non-Consumers

A study from the University of New Mexico found that individuals with THC in their system scored higher than non-users on moral decision-making, pro-social behaviors, and empathy.

Full story after the jump.

A new study by University of New Mexico (UNM) researchers found that cannabis consumers showed more empathy, pro-social behaviors, and moral decision-making than non-consumers, according to a Daily Lobo report. The study, “Cannabis consumption and prosociality,” published in the Scientific Reports journal, included 146 adults between the ages of 18 and 25 and found individuals with THC in their system scored higher than non-users on Prosocial Behaviors, Empathy Quotient, Moral Harmlessness, and Moral Fairness measures but exhibited a lower sense of Ingroup Loyalty.

Jacob Vigil, UNM psychology professor and lead psychologist on the study, said he was motivated to conduct the study following a National Institute of Health lecture that claimed cannabis users were less motivated by money.

“It seemed as though cannabis tends to result in a psychological shift from externally pressured goals … And to me, my observation is that cannabis tends to result from that kind of egocentric or perhaps, externally pressurized trajectory towards one that is more primal and one that is more concerned with humanity in a broader collective context.” – Vigil to the Daily Lobo

The pro-social benefits found in the study were more pronounced in participants who used THC more recently, which UNM Economics Professor and study researcher Sarah Stith said showed a true causal relationship between cannabis use and pro-social behaviors.

“Positive benefits seem to really be correlated with the recency of cannabis use,” she told the Daily Lobo, “which makes it hard to say that people are just consuming cannabis when they’re feeling pro-social.”

Stith added that with cannabis use, some “would expect there to be negative externalities.”

“You know, maybe there’s some negative behavioral changes or secondhand smoke or things like that,” she said, “but in this case, it’s suggesting, actually, that people might get along better if they were consuming cannabis, which is pretty extreme.”

The results of the research could impact what drugs people use to treat medical issues. Opioids, for example, can cause negative emotional changes and antisocial behaviors while cannabis tends to increase one’s sociability and can be used to treat similar ailments as opioids. Cannabis has also shown promise as an exit drug for some opioid users.

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