Does cannabis make you lazy? The image of someone in “couch lock,” watching hours of television and gulping down loads of snack food, is a staple of the Hollywood stoner image. But it’s also a persistent marijuana myth, according to recent studies.
In one of the studies, University of Memphis researchers found that cannabis makes users more motivated to complete “effort-based decision-making” tasks. In other words, cannabis does not necessarily make you lazy. It may make you want to get things done. Science once again undermines a marijuana myth.
The researchers reached their conclusion after studying the effects of cannabis on 47 young adults. They wrote that cannabis users “are more likely to expend effort to obtain reward, even after controlling for the magnitude of the reward and the probability of reward receipt.”
The Amotivational Syndrome Hypothesis
The researchers from the University of Memphis set out to evaluate the amotivational syndrome hypothesis, which argues that regular use of cannabis “results in impaired capacity for goal-directed behavior.” In layman’s terms, it turns you into a couch potato (a not very bright couch potato, although that’s another marijuana myth that’s been addressed).
According to the study, past research used a variety of approaches and did not control for key confounding variables. In this new study, researchers decided to focus on one set of college-age students to determine the relationship between using cannabis regularly and effort-related decision making.
They tested both cannabis users and non-users, having them complete an Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task. This tests whether a person will pick a high-effort trial to earn a reward and how much the reward’s magnitude, probability, and expected value impacted their decision. The study found that participants were actually more likely to choose a high-effort trial after cannabis use, without as much consideration for variables such as reward magnitude or expected value.
Are Cannabis Users Lazy?
The study results undermined the stereotypical image of a lazy stoner. It also bolstered the idea of using cannabis to improve wellbeing, something advocates have argued for decades.
The study also is not the only of its kind. A recent study from University College London, the University of Cambridge, and King’s College London found no difference between cannabis and non-cannabis users when it came to exhibiting apathy (a lack of motivation) or anhedonia, a loss of interest in or pleasure from rewards.
The study from the United Kingdom also compared results from adults and adolescents and found that younger test subjects were not more subject to these outcomes than adults.
The study’s’ findings ran contrary to the popular marijuana myth that younger marijuana users are more vulnerable to any effect cannabis might have on motivation, the experience of pleasure, or response to reward. “In fact, it seems cannabis may have no link – or at most only weak associations – with these outcomes in general,” said Dr. Will Lawn of King’s College London, a lead researcher on the study.