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Scientific research continues to reach conclusions that fly in the face of long-believed myths about cannabis use, such as marijuana makes you stupid or never want to exercise. Now, researchers have busted another false belief: Cannabis causes laziness.
Researchers from the University of Memphis studied 47 college students and found cannabis users were more likely than non-users to engage in effort-related decision-making tasks.
The study’s findings are consistent with recent studies on weed’s impact on motivation. For example, a 2020 study found that people over 60 who use cannabis felt more motivated to exercise regularly. They also had a lower Body Mass Index than non-users.
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Busting the Amotivational Syndrome Hypothesis
The University of Memphis researchers’ work tested the validity of the amotivational syndrome hypothesis, which argues that cannabis use fosters apathy and an impaired capacity for goal-directed behavior. The existence of this syndrome is a subject of controversy because studies have not reached a definitive answer on the extent to which it impacts cannabis users.
Researchers wrote that past attempts to study the issue failed to account for other variables that might influence a cannabis user’s behavior. The new study accounts for these variables and found that cannabis-using college students picked tasks that implied higher motivation levels than their peers who did not use cannabis.
Researchers assessed motivation by using the Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task. The task measures a person’s likelihood of choosing a high-effort trial for a reward. Under most circumstances, reward magnitude, reward probability, and the expected value predict a greater chance of selecting a high-effort trial.
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Controlling for Other Variables
The university researchers found that past-month cannabis use also predicted the likelihood of a high-effort trial, even after they controlled for other potentially influencing conditions, such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms, distress tolerance, income, and delay discounting.
“The results provide preliminary evidence suggesting that college students who use cannabis are more likely to expend effort to obtain reward, even after controlling for the magnitude of the reward and the probability of reward receipt,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, these results do not support the amotivational syndrome hypothesis.”
The researchers called for more studies using a larger sample size of patients “to evaluate possible associations between cannabis use and patterns of real-world effortful behavior over time.”
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