Are cannabis consumers naturally compassionate? Can cannabis make you a more understanding person? A study, the first of its kind, seems to have answered that question. And all signs point to yes. According to the study, cannabis consumers exhibit higher levels of empathy.
Cannabis and compassion have gone hand-in-hand since the discovery of the plant. But now, the concept of “compassionate cannabis consumers” has scientific backing.
Compassionate Cannabis Consumers?
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was led by researchers from the University of New Mexico. It’s the first study to demonstrate the non-clinical benefits of cannabis among healthy adults.
Researchers analyzed the psychology of 146 college students using cannabis with varying levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). They controlled for age, ethnicity, sex, class, and childhood experiences. Researchers found cannabis consumers scored higher on prosocial behaviour measures.
They concluded that cannabis consumers are more compassionate and empathic and have high standards for moral fairness.
Male cannabis consumers scored higher on “agreeableness” than women. Still, men and women scored higher on the compassionate scale than THC-free individuals.
Researchers believe THC’s role in creating compassionate cannabis consumers is momentary based on how much time has passed since consumers last used cannabis.
“The transience of the effects supports that cannabis is triggering behavioural and perceptual changes rather than that cannabis users and non-user differ fundamentally in their baseline approaches to social interactions,” said co-author and associate professor Sarah Stith, UNM Department of Economics.
In other words: there isn’t a fundamental difference between consumers and non-consumers. Cannabis makes people compassionate, but once the effects of THC wear off, so does the higher level of agreeableness.
Tiphanie Chanel, another co-author in UNM’s Psychology department, called the study “groundbreaking.” She hopes it leads to more research on the “effects of cannabis on human interactions and well-being.”
Nothing New About Compassionate Cannabis Consumers
Studies that focus on cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain come to the same conclusion. A 2021 study from Harvard found improvements in the moods of patients using cannabis for chronic pain.
This Harvard study, published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, correlated daily cannabis consumption with improved sleep, mood, anxiety and quality of life.
Likewise, a 2022 Canadian study involving over 7,000 patients found “statistically significant improvements” when patients used cannabis to treat anxiety and depression.
“There were statistically significant improvements between baseline and followup scores … with larger improvements seen for patients who were actively seeking medical cannabis to treat anxiety or depression,” the authors wrote.
How Does Cannabis Make Someone Compassionate?
Compassionate cannabis consumers are a complex topic and more research is needed. But knowing how cannabis works, one can make some assumptions.
THC interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS regulates our mood, appetite, sleep, pain responses, and immune system. There are natural cannabinoids that bind to our receptors, like anandamide. Anandamide is called the “bliss molecule.” If you’ve ever gone for a run or an intense work-out, and afterward you feel incredibly relaxed and content – that’s anandamide working through your system.
THC is an external cannabinoid that binds to cannabinoid receptors and mimics the effects of anandamide. Being “stoned” is like getting a runner’s high without running. Fortunately, the body doesn’t treat external cannabinoids as toxins but works with them as medicinal healers. That’s why you can’t overdose on cannabis.
With THC mimicking the bliss molecule, the brain and body are relaxed. With a serene biological system, a person can slip into a relaxed state of mind. And when one is calm and content, one becomes more compassionate.