We’ve all felt apathetic at times during our lives; whether it’s a task that you’ve been putting off for weeks, or merely a general feeling of disenchantment with life, we’ve all gone through it!
Apathy is part of life, and it usually comes and goes fairly quickly. But can smoking cannabis cause it to occur – or persist in those individuals who are already prone to apathetic tendencies? An age-old myth surrounding weed is that it leads to laziness and a lack of motivation, but how true is this?
We know from experience that there is plenty is fake news when it comes to cannabis, so we have done the legwork to get the bottom of the facts on whether smoking weed can really lead to an apathetic mindset!
First Things First: What is Apathy?
Although you may not be familiar with the term, we bet at some point you have suffered from apathy yourself, and most likely on multiple occasions! Ever really not wanted to do something so much that you almost feel entirely disinterested? Yep, that’s right – apathy!
In most cases, feelings of apathy are short-lived, and shouldn’t be something to be overly concerned about. However, in some cases, apathy can occur as a result of a more serious underlying health condition, more often than not neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, which can lead to feelings of apathy.
What Are the Symptoms of Apathy?
Apathy often presents itself as a low mood, a feeling of disinterest and a general lack of motivation to take part in things. However, at its worse, apathy can have a significant negative impact on daily life; whether that is at work or in personal relationships, apathy can really isolate you from your peers and loved ones, and can even lead to people losing jobs and relationships as a result.
Can Apathy Be Treated?
Both the severity of your apathy and the underlying causes of it will determine how you receive treatment for your particular case of apathy. In most cases, as we said earlier, these feelings will pass (let’s face it, we’ve all felt unmotivated at some point!).
If you are suffering from apathy due to another health condition, however, you may be treated with medication that can ease some of the symptoms of your condition.
So while yes, there is scope to treat apathy, it is pretty much always treatment for the condition that is causing it, rather than treatment for apathy itself. So ultimately, if you are stuck with a severe case of apathy that does not relate to any underlying health condition, you may have difficulties finding treatment!
Can Smoking Weed Cause Apathy?
We’ve all seen the movies portraying weed stereotypes through a bunch of scruffy, lazy teens that have the energy for nothing but eating! This is a stereotype that has been around for years, and is unfortunately still around today! While those of us who use weed know how overly dramatic and incorrect this portrayal is, could there be a little truth behind it?
There have been numerous studies looking into the effects of cannabis on our bodies, both mental and physical. And some researchers do believe that marijuana has the potential to decrease the levels of dopamine in the brain when smoked. So what does this mean for us regarding apathy?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that triggers happy and pleasurable sensations. Things like exercise, food, and sex can trigger a release of dopamine, and it is pretty essential in ensuring we get pleasure out of day-to-day life.
As you can imagine, if dopamine release is compromised in any way, this could have a detrimental effect on our productivity, happiness, and quality of life.
Studies Into Cannabis and Apathy
With so much research into cannabis and how it affects us, you’d assume that the stoner myths and stereotypes would have been busted by now, right? Well, unfortunately, some stigmas are hard to shake, and the unmotivated pothead is one of them!
While there is research that shows cannabis can affect dopamine levels, the in-depth studies paint an entirely different picture of the ones on the big screen! So let’s unravel the research into marijuana and apathy!
Study 1 – Does Cannabis Directly Impact Our Motivation?
A study first published in 2016 looked at whether smoking cannabis could lower levels of dopamine in the Striaturn. During the study, researchers addressed anecdotal reports that both acute and chronic cannabis consumption led to apathy and a lack of motivation.
To test this, the researchers did two things; they first looked at 17 subjects, all of which were given three acute vaporized treatments of THC, CBD and THC combined, and a matched placebo. The participants were given an initial dose and a dose up 1.5 hours later, and then had to complete an Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task (EEfRT).
In the second test, a group of 20 heavy cannabis smokers was compared with 20 people who were not dependent on cannabis in the same EEfRT test, as well as the Probabilistic Reward Task (PRT) in a non-intoxicated state.
The results of the study showed that those who were given the vaporized mixture of cannabis and CBD chose the less-effort tasks compared to when given a placebo. It also revealed that there was increased sensitivity to value compared to placebo.
However, the most important part of this study revealed that, while cannabis reduced motivation (even when money was involved!), it was only acutely affected. Therefore, the study discredited claims that marijuana causes brain cell damage or creates long-term apathy in regular smokers!
Study 2 – Does Weed Directly Affect Dopamine Levels?
A research study published in 2014 looked into how cannabis can directly impact dopamine levels in the brain of regular cannabis smokers. The study compared the results of 24 heavy cannabis smokers to 24 non-weed smokers by giving both groups a dopamine-producing drug.
The results revealed that for those who were not cannabis users, the high dopamine caused negative side effects such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and feelings of general restlessness. Those who were heavy cannabis users stated that they felt no significant reactions to the increased dopamine levels, therefore allowing the study to conclude that cannabis does have an effect on the key brain mechanisms involved in feeling pleasure.
A neuropsychologist involved in the study said, “Cannabis users may experience less reward from things others generally find pleasurable and, contrary to popular stereotypes, that they generally feel more irritable, stressed, and just plain crummy.”
Dose Smoking Weed Cause Apathy? Final Thoughts
With these two studies analyzed, it would seem that on the face of it, yes, cannabis can cause apathy. However, it is also important to consider that cannabis can also cause paranoia in one person while the next will have no symptoms. What we mean is, weed affects everyone differently, so saying marijuana causes apathy is a sweeping generalization!
That being said, the first study shows promising scientific evidence that cannabis does not cause any long-term apathy in smokers!