Cannabis Users Stay Motivated: Lazy Stoner Myth Debunked

Summary: A new study challenges the stereotype that chronic cannabis users are lazy and unmotivated. The research surveyed 260 frequent users and found no significant drop in their motivation or effort levels while high compared to when sober.

The study also observed enhanced positive emotions and a slight dip in self-regulation among users when high. This nuanced approach aims to provide a more balanced view of the effects of regular cannabis use on daily life.

Three Key Facts:

  1. No Impact on Motivation: Chronic cannabis users showed the same willingness to exert effort on tasks while high as when they were not.
  2. Emotional and Self-Regulation Effects: While cannabis use boosted positive emotions like awe and gratitude, it also led to decreased self-regulation, making users more impulsive and less orderly.
  3. No Weed Hangover: The research found no evidence of a decline in emotional or motivational function the day after cannabis use, debunking the idea of a “weed hangover.”

Source: University of Toronto

Stoners are not as lazy and unmotivated as stereotypes suggest, according to new U of T Scarborough research.

The study, published by the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, surveyed chronic cannabis users to see what effect getting high has on their everyday lives. 

“There is a stereotype that chronic cannabis users are somehow lazy or unproductive,” says Michael Inzlicht, a professor in the Department of Psychology at U of T Scarborough who led the study. 

This shows a woman and leaves.
The researchers found that getting high did lead to lower levels of self-regulation, which is an important trait for being able to accomplish tasks. Credit: Neuroscience News

“We found that’s not the case — their behaviours might change a bit in the moment while they’re high, but our evidence shows they are not lazy or lacking motivation at all.” 

The researchers surveyed 260 chronic users (those who consume cannabis at least three times a week or more), who received regular messages through an app asking if they were high. The participants were then asked about their emotional state, levels of motivation, willingness to invest effort and self-regulation. 

Inzlicht says the most interesting finding relates to motivation. 

The researchers studied the participants’ willingness to exert effort in completing a task while high. They found participants were willing and motivated to exert the same amount of effort while high compared to when they are not.   

Past research has shown mixed results when it comes to chronic cannabis use and motivation. Inzlicht notes much of it relied on limited experimental designs that didn’t account for differences between cannabis users and non-users, such as variations in personality, mental health, or use of other psychoactive substances.

He says this study instead looked at chronic cannabis use while participants were actively high, while also accounting for these pre-existing differences.

Emotions, self-regulation and ‘weed hangover’     

The researchers found that getting high did lead to lower levels of self-regulation, which is an important trait for being able to accomplish tasks. They found that when chronic users are high it does impact certain behaviours linked to self-regulation, such as being more impulsive, less thoughtful and less orderly. 

“These things can detract someone from getting stuff done, but we didn’t find it made them less hard-working, responsible or able to focus,” says Inzlicht. 

They also found that chronic cannabis users experience a boost in positive emotions such as awe and gratitude, and a reduction in some negative emotions such as fear and anxiety while high. However, the researchers found those who get high a lot, on the higher end of chronic use, experience more negative emotions while high and while sober. 

The researchers found no evidence of “weed hangover,” that is, chronic users didn’t experience a decline in function (emotion or motivation) the day after being high. 

 New frontier for cannabis research

Studying the effects of daily cannabis use was difficult in the past given its legal status, and most research tended to focus only on the negative side in an effort to curb use.

Now that cannabis is legal in Canada, he says it’s much easier to study, and he expects there will be greater research focusing on the risks as well as the possible positive effects. 

“The cannabis literature, historically, tended to focus a lot on the negative medical consequences of chronic use,” says Inzlicht, who runs the Work and Play Lab, which does research on self-control, motivation and empathy as well as social media, digital device and recreational cannabis use. 

“Part of the motivation for this study is to take a neutral, clear-eyed approach to see how cannabis affects chronic users in their everyday lives.” 

Inzlicht says this study isn’t an endorsement of heavy cannabis use, adding there is plenty of research highlighting the risks associated with heavy use, especially among adolescents. 

Rather, he points to Statistics Canada data showing that nearly one in 10 adult Canadians are regular cannabis users, and they come from all walks of life. Cannabis is also the fourth most used recreational drug after caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. But despite its increased legal and social acceptance, relatively little is known about the everyday experiences of regular users.  

“Our data suggests that you can be hard-working, motivated and a chronic cannabis user at the same time.” 

Funding: The study received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. 

About this cannabis use and attention research news

Author: Suniya Kukaswadia
Source: University of Toronto
Contact: Suniya Kukaswadia – University of Toronto
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Chronic Cannabis Use in Everyday Life: Emotional, Motivational, and Self-Regulatory Effects of Frequently Getting High” by Michael Inzlicht et al. Social Psychological and Personality Science


Chronic Cannabis Use in Everyday Life: Emotional, Motivational, and Self-Regulatory Effects of Frequently Getting High

Approximately 200 million people consume cannabis annually, with a significant proportion of them using it chronically.

Using experience sampling, we describe the effects of chronically getting high on emotions, motivation, effort, and self-regulation in everyday life.

We queried chronic users (N = 260) 5 times per day over 7 days (3,701 observations) to assess immediate effects of getting high and longer term, between-person effects.

Getting high was associated with more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions. Contrary to stereotypes, we observed minimal effects on motivation or objective effort willingness.

However, getting high was associated with lower scores on facets of conscientiousness. Surprisingly, there was no evidence of a weed hangover. Relative to less frequent users, very frequent users exhibited more negative emotions dispositionally, but they were more motivated.

They also reported less self-control and willpower. As attitudes about cannabis are changing, our findings provide a rich description of its chronic use.

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  1. sure if they’re not so hopelessly addicted that they only are doing it three times a week then I would imagine they’re the type of person who stays motivated in general to do what they wanted to do before they started using. But what if something bad happens to them and they use it more for a while or what if they are not one of those people that can only use it 3 days a week and starts to do it all the time.

    I know so many people who are stoned 24 hours a day.

  2. Lol yeah right. I’m a stoner and I can tell you this is 100% ridiculous. My motivation and ebery levels are waaay higher when I’m sober versus when I’m stoned. Same with all my stoner friends. I literally never get anything done stoned that’s why as I got older I started only smoking at night when I am just playing video games, watching TV or reading. Those people totally played you to fulfill their own need to convince the world they are just as motivated when stoned as when not. But this is simply not true. My background: smoked weed everyday for the last 15 years and I have a Bachelors in Psychology.

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