Marijuana Does Make You Less Motivated — But Only While You're High

We're all familiar with the stereotypical image of a stoner as someone who is too lazy to get up off the couch — unless it's to forage for chips — but how accurate is that? A new study says that marijuana does make you less willing to work for money (brownies might be another story) — but only while you're high. So when someone who uses marijuana sobers up again, they're theoretically fine.

Dr. Will Lawn, one of the researchers involved in the study, which was published in the journal Psychopharmacology, explained, “Although cannabis is commonly thought to reduce motivation, this is the first time it has been reliably tested and quantified using an appropriate sample size and methodology." In other words, we kind of assume stoners are inherently lazy, but no one has really put it to the test — until now.

In the study, volunteers who already use cannabis participated in one of two experiments. In the first experiment, occasional cannabis users inhaled either cannabis vapor or a placebo. They were then asked to complete tasks for which they were rewarded with money. Volunteers were given the choice of completing either a high-effort or low-effort tasks, with low-effort tasks paying less. Researchers found that people who inhaled cannabis were significantly more likely to choose a low-effort option.

In a second experiment, people who meet the qualification of cannabis addiction were matched with people who regularly use another type of drug. Participants weren't allowed to consume any mind-altering substances, including alcohol, for 12 hours prior to the experiment. When these participants were asked to choose between low-effort and high-effort tasks, researchers found no difference between those who use marijuana and those who use other drugs.

In other words, there's nothing inherent about marijuana that makes people lazier or less motivated to work — at least once they're sober again.

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Now, it still unclear how marijuana users might stack up against the general population once everyone is clean and sober, but at the very least, this indicates that the stereotypes of pot making people dumb and lazy aren't based on actual research.

And that's important. Even though recreational marijuana is now legal in several states, it is still legal for employers in those states to fire employees who fail a drug test or are caught using marijuana. Which, in part, is due to the fact that people assume consuming cannabis products will make people less good at their jobs. Which might not actually be true.

As Dr. Lawn explained it, this study "tentatively suggests that long-term cannabis use may not result in residual motivation problems when people stop using it. However, longitudinal research is needed to provide more conclusive evidence.”

And in the meantime, maybe we should give stoners a break.

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