Marijuana use has long been associated with a more positive attitude in pop culture references, but now, new research suggests it might actually make you a nicer person.
A study conducted with 85 regular marijuana users and 52 nonusers suggests there could be a neurological connection between cannabis and empathetic responses. The research was published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research.
Participants completed a test designed to measure empathy, and some had images taken of their brain for researchers to study the region that facilitates an empathetic response.
The test, called the Cognitive and Affective Empathy Test, uses a series of questions with Likert scale answers ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” to measure one’s ability to identify and understand people’s emotions as well as the ability to feel and connect with people’s emotions, sensations and feelings.
Researchers said cannabis users scored higher on the test with emotional comprehension. The cannabis users also had greater connectivity in areas associated with emotional and empathy-related regions of their brains, as seen in the imaging portion.
Like any study, there were some limitations. The high levels of empathetic emotional comprehension may have already been present in the cannabis users before they started regular consumption. The level of THC in the marijuana used could also play a factor, the researchers said.
Since cannabis has generally been associated with negative mental health impacts, researchers said their findings are important because they highlight the positive effects of cannabis on interpersonal relationships and potential therapeutic applications.
As more and more states in the U.S. legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana, considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be the most-used drug on a global scale, researchers continue to look into the short-term and long-term effects of cannabis use.
Often the research on its cognitive impact is conflicting and emphasizes that more research on the association is needed. Some studies suggest marijuana use heightens anxiety, while others find benefits in using it totreat anxiety disorders. Depression has been linked to marijuana use, but there’s also research that shows cannabis can have positive effects on someone with clinical depression.
SEE MORE: Researchers find link between cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia
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