Stoners “have more empathy” than the rest of the population, according to a new study.
Researchers found that those who regularly smoke marijuana find it easier to recognize and understand how others feel.
Chronic users are also more capable of sensing how others are feeling, according to researchers at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
The team argued this could be due to weed smokers feeling less “discomfort” around emotional people.
Brain scans also revealed cannabis users’ anterior cingulate – a region linked to empathy – was particularly active.
As a result, they were better placed to feel someone else’s emotional state within their own body.
Expert Dr. Víctor Olalde-Mathieu, claimed cannabis could help social anxiety and other disorders that make it challenging to be around people.
He said: “Although further research is needed, these results open an exciting new window for exploring the potential effects of cannabis in aiding treatments for conditions involving deficits in social interactions, such as sociopathy, social anxiety, and avoidant personality disorder, among others.”
‘Empathy’ was divided into two categories for the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research.
Cognitive empathy is to understand someone else’s emotions, and affective empathy is to physically sense what the other is feeling.
A group of 85 regular cannabis users and 51 who didn’t take the drug completed a questionnaire on consumption.
They then took a Cognitive and Affective Empathy Test, assessing cognitive and affective empathetic skills.
The 33-item test had one to five answers where one is “Strongly disagree” and five is “Strongly agree.”
It looked at perspective-taking, which is the capacity to place oneself in the shoes of another.
Then emotional comprehension – the ability to recognize and understand other people’s emotions and impressions.
Empathic stress was also analyzed, known as the ability to be in tune with others’ negative emotions.
And lastly there was empathetic happiness, or the ability to feel others’ positive emotions.
Of that group, 46 weed smokers and 34 non-users had an MRI brain scan.
Dr. Olalde-Mathieu said: “These findings highlight positive effects of cannabis on interpersonal relationships and potential therapeutic applications.
“Additionally, previous research has shown that these types of psychometric results correspond with the subjective experience and behaviors of cannabis users related to a greater understanding of other emotions, less verbal hostility, enhanced pro-sociality and empathic predisposition to others’ situations.
“This greater emotional comprehension of the affective state of the other requires in part, a better vicarious representation of the emotional cues ostensively communicated by the other, and a reduction of the personal discomfort that those cues arise, so the emergence of such representation could be more adequate to that portrait by the other.
“Chronic cannabis consumption may involve multimodal and context-dependent effects which may involve negative behaviors, such as emotional dysregulations or social stress, or positive behaviors such as social bonding and social reward.
“We believe that the differences shown by regular cannabis users in the emotional comprehension scores and their brain functional connectivity could be related to the use of cannabis.
“However, we cannot discard that such differences were present before the users started their use of cannabis.”
The results matched what the weed smokers had reported in previous studies, that they understood others’ feelings better than non-smokers.
The study was limited by the cannabis being “lower quality” in Mexico than in the USA, with the former containing just two percent to 10 percent THC.
As a result, marijuana’s effect on empathy could be different in the States.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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