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Forget the stereotypical stoner! Cannabis users are NOT lazy and apathetic, research shows

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From Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad to The Dude in The Big Lebowski, stereotypical ‘stoners’ are often portrayed as lazy and apathetic.

But a new study suggests the stereotype isn’t actually true.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge say cannabis users are no less motivated or enjoy life’s pleasures than non-users.

“We’re so used to seeing ‘lazy stoners’ on our screens that we don’t stop to ask if they’re an accurate representation of cannabis users,” said Martine Skumlien, an author of the study.

“Our work implies that this is in itself a lazy stereotype, and that people who use cannabis are no more motivated or lazier than people who don’t.”

From Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad to The Dude in The Big Lebowski (pictured), stereotypical ‘stoners’ are often portrayed as lazy and apathetic

What are the UK cannabis laws and what are the risks of using them?

Cannabis is an illegal Class B drug in the UK, meaning possession can lead to up to five years in prison and those supplying the drug can face up to 14 years in prison.

However, the drug is widely used for recreational purposes and can make users feel relaxed and happy.

But smoking can also lead to feelings of panic, fear or paranoia.

Scientific studies have shown that the drug can relieve depression, anxiety and stress, but heavy use can make depression worse in the long term by reducing the brain’s ability to let go of bad memories.

According to research, it may also contribute to mental health problems in people who already have them, or increase users’ risk of psychosis or schizophrenia.

Marijuana can be prescribed for medical use in more than half of the US states, where it is used to combat anxiety, aggression and sleep problems. Researchers are also investigating whether it can help people with autism, eczema, or psoriasis.

Cannabis oil containing the psychoactive chemical THC, which is illegal in the UK, is said to have cancer-fighting properties, and a 52-year-old woman from Coventry says she recovered from terminal colon and stomach cancer by taking the drug.

Because cannabis is the third most commonly used controlled substance in the world — after alcohol and nicotine — the researchers sought to understand whether the drug affects levels of apathy and anhedonia (loss of interest in or pleasure in rewards).

The team recruited 274 young cannabis users who had used cannabis at least weekly for the past three months and matched them with non-users of the same age and gender.

All participants completed questionnaires to measure their levels of anhedonia and apathy.

The results showed that cannabis users scored slightly lower than non-users on anhedonia, meaning they seemed to be better able to enjoy themselves.

Meanwhile, there was no significant difference when it came to apathy.

‘We were surprised to see that there was really very little difference between cannabis users and non-users when it came to lack of motivation or lack of pleasure, even among those who used cannabis every day,’ said Ms Skumlien.

“This goes against the stereotypical image we see on TV and in movies.”

The researchers took a closer look at the results and found that adolescents scored higher than adults on anhedonia and apathy in both user and non-user groups, but cannabis use did not amplify this difference.

dr. Will Lawn, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, said: ‘There has been much concern that cannabis use in adolescence could lead to worse outcomes than cannabis use during adulthood.

“But our study, one of the first to directly compare adolescents and adults using cannabis, suggests that adolescents are no more vulnerable than adults to the deleterious effects of cannabis on motivation, the experience of pleasure or the brain’s response to reward.

‘In fact, it appears that cannabis has no association – or at most a weak association – with these outcomes in general.’

Because cannabis is the third most used controlled substance in the world — after alcohol and nicotine — the researchers sought to understand whether the drug affects levels of apathy and anhedonia (loss of interest in or pleasure in rewards).

Because cannabis is the third most commonly used controlled substance in the world — after alcohol and nicotine — the researchers wanted to understand whether the drug affects levels of apathy and anhedonia (loss of interest in or pleasure in rewards).

In a follow-up study, just over half of the participants performed behavioral tasks.

The first task assessed their physical exertion and saw participants given the opportunity to press buttons to win points, which were later exchanged for chocolate.

The task had three levels of difficulty, with more difficult trials requiring faster button presses.

At each level, participants could choose to accept or decline the offer.

A second task was to assess how much fun they had with rewards.

The participants had to estimate how much they wanted to receive from each of the three rewards – 30 seconds of their favorite song, a chocolate and a £1 coin – on a scale from ‘not wanting at all’ to ‘wanting intensely’.

They then received each reward and were asked how enjoyable they found them.

Again, the results showed no difference between cannabis users and non-users on either task.

Professor Barbara Sahakian, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘Our evidence indicates that cannabis use does not appear to have any effect on the motivation of recreational users.

‘The participants in our study were cannabis users who took daily cannabis and who no longer lacked motivation.

‘However, we cannot rule out the possibility that increased use, such as in some people with a cannabis disorder, has an effect.’

CANNABIS: THE FACTS

Cannabis is an illegal Class B drug in the UK, meaning possession can lead to up to five years in prison and those supplying the drug can face up to 14 years in prison.

However, the drug is widely used for recreational purposes and can make users feel relaxed and happy.

But smoking can also lead to feelings of panic, fear or paranoia.

Scientific studies have shown that the drug can relieve depression, anxiety and stress, but heavy use can make depression worse in the long term by reducing the brain’s ability to let go of bad memories.

According to research, it may also contribute to mental health problems in people who already have them, or increase users’ risk of psychosis or schizophrenia.

Marijuana can be prescribed for medical use in more than half of the US states, where it is used to combat anxiety, aggression and sleep problems. Researchers are also investigating whether it can help people with autism, eczema, or psoriasis.

Cannabis oil containing the psychoactive chemical THC, which is illegal in the UK, is said to have cancer-fighting properties, and a 52-year-old woman from Coventry says she recovered from terminal colon and stomach cancer by taking the drug.

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