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The Surprising Link Between Cannabis Use and Increased Empathy


In a world where the myths and stereotypes about cannabis make the facts a little cloudy, it is nice to see something positive stated about cannabis users and social culture. A new study has linked cannabis use to higher levels of emotional empathy.

As the medical community does further research about cannabis, beyond aiding treatments for medical conditions, we start to get a clearer picture of some of the intrinsic benefits of the healing herb. Does cannabis make you a nicer person?

We know that cannabis can have a relaxing and euphoric effect. Unlike other controlled substances, episodes of rage and anger are not attributed to marijuana users. Quite the opposite, in fact. For many, cannabis may reduce stress levels, irritability, chronic pain, and other symptoms.

Now, there is a new research study that supports the belief that cannabis users are generally sensitive and conscious of other people’s emotions, with potentially higher levels of empathy than non-cannabis users.

Is Human Empathy The Same As Being Nice?

Kind of, but neuroscience research tells us empathy is a complex mix of intent, how we understand others’ emotions, and the quality of our social interactions. A lot of emotional processing goes on in the brain regions related to feelings of kindness and affection and how we react to people’s emotions.

The characteristics of someone who has high emotional IQ and empathy include:


The ability to recognize and understand your own emotions and express them appropriately. This also includes self-reflection and interest in gaining insights into your own emotional responses and behaviors.

Emotional Regulation

Emotional comprehension scores determine how much empathy someone has for others. Some of the psychoactive effects of cannabis are general feelings of warmth, acceptance, and calmness. Different strains may also enhance focus, which may help cannabis users pick up on body language, tone of voice, and other cues that enhance an empathic response.

the surprising link between cannabis use and increased empathy

Social Awareness

Emotional comprehension scores determine how much empathy someone has for others. Some of the psychoactive effects of cannabis are general feelings of warmth, acceptance, and calmness. High-EQ individuals want to understand other people and build positive relationships.

Different strains may also enhance focus and concentration. That may help cannabis users pick up on body language, tone of voice, and other cues that enhance a kind and empathic response. If you are with other people who are also consuming cannabis, you may notice that the conversations are often deep and meaningful. Another reason why many artists use cannabis to compose music, write books, or create visual art.

Relationship Building and Leadership Abilities

It is hard to be an effective leader if you have a very low capacity for empathy. Leadership is relationship-building, paying attention to other people’s emotions, and providing attention, support, and guidance when someone needs that extra help.

Insensitive behaviors are common among people who have low empathy. They can be prone to transactional assessments of business or personal relationships and display limited interest in altruism or helping others. Low empathy can make it more difficult to resolve interpersonal conflicts because of reduced prosocial behavior.

mmj and empathy

The Study That Made Cannabis Users Smile

A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research stated that there may be a strong connection between cannabis consumption and higher levels of emotional empathy. The researchers were looking for proof that cannabis could help patients who have disorders that impact normal social interactions.

The study was conducted with eighty-five (85) regular cannabis users and fifty-one people who did not use cannabis. Then, forty-six cannabis users and thirty-four non-users were given MRIs to study brain wave patterns and emotional responses.

Researchers made the following statement:

“Given that the ACC is one of the main areas that possess CB1 receptors and is heavily involved in the representation of the affective state of others, 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.”

The brain’s anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) area has numerous cannabinoid receptors, particularly the CB1 receptors, which regulate mood, emotion, hunger (hence the snack attacks), and other cognitive processes. Most importantly, however, the ACC also handles decision-making, learning, monitoring conflict and errors, and the overall cost-benefit calculation, which impacts social actions and empathy.

The study in the Journal of Neuroscience Research postulated that, overall, people who have consumed cannabis not only feel good but the cognitive empathy trait is somehow stimulated by cannabis as well. Psychometric tests were conducted, evaluating different emotional states among the test subjects, and cannabis users had higher levels of empathy than non-users.

When was the last time you saw someone take cannabis and get really angry? While the findings may have stimulated new discussions in the medical community, it hardly comes as a surprise to anyone who regularly uses cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes. However, it may lead to better treatment plans for people with avoidant personality disorder and other mental health conditions.


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