Long Story Short
In a brand new study, researchers at University College London found that people are less motivated to work for money when they’re high. The study is one of the first to focus specifically on how cannabis affects motivation.
Motivated By Money?
The study was broken down into two separate phases. The first one included 17 adults who smoke weed every once in a while. People in the group were given either cannabis vapor or a placebo vapor. They were then asked to make a decision.
They could choose to do an easy task and get paid 50p (roughly 66 cents in U.S. currency) or a hard task for up to 2 pounds (roughly $2.66). The people who were high chose the easy task more often than the people who weren’t high.
The scientists concluded that people are less likely to be motivated by money when they’re high. The change in motivation could be the result of changes in brain chemistry. Earlier studies found that cannabis lowers dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine has been linked to ambition and motivation.
The Myth Of Unmotivated Pot Smokers
The second phase of the study wanted to test out one of the longstanding myths about pot smokers. Many people think that heavy smokers end up losing motivation even when they’re not high. The scientists working on this project wanted to see if that assumption is correct.
So they got together a group of 20 people who could be considered to be “addicted to cannabis.” Those 20 were then matched with 20 individuals who don’t smoke marijuana regularly.
Both groups were required to stay entirely sober for the test. They were then given the same choice about the easy or hard motivation tasks. The results from this phase of the test were pretty much even. Both groups—the weed “addicts” and the non-smokers—chose to do the hard task at more or less the same rate.
The Final Hit
After seeing the results from both phases of the experiment, here’s what the researchers concluded. Cannabis use can lead to short-term decreases in motivation. But there’s no reason to think there are any long-term or permanent effects. When sober, a heavy, everyday pot smoker is just as motivated as anyone else.
“It has also been proposed that long-term cannabis users might also have problems with motivation even when they are not high,” said lead researchers Will Lawn. “However, we compared people dependent on cannabis to similar controls . . . and did not find a difference in motivation.”
“This tentatively suggests that long-term cannabis use may not result in residual motivation problems when people stop using it. However, research is needed to provide more conclusive evidence.”