New study finds that cannabis users have more empathy. 

Liz Filmer
01 Dec 2023

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research has suggested that people who use cannabis regularly may have a greater understanding of the emotions of others.

Brain imaging tests showed that cannabis users’ anterior cingulate (ACC)—a region of the brain that is typically affected by cannabis use and related to empathy—showed more robust connectivity with other brain regions that are typically linked  to deciphering the emotions of other people.
The study of 85 regular cannabis users and 51 non-consumers saw the participants complete psychometric tests, as well as a subset of 46 users and 34 nonusers undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging exams.

“Our study indicates a greater emotional comprehension and functional connectivity associated with empathy-related areas in users than controls. Endocannabinoid activation due to chronic cannabis consumption may involve multimodal and context-dependent effects which may involve negative behaviours, such as emotional dysregulations or social stress, or positive behaviours, such as social bonding and social reward.”

While the study has its limitations, the authors believe that contrasts shown in the emotional comprehension scores and brain functional connectivity could be related to the use of cannabis. As cannabis use has typically been linked with adverse mental health, these findings are among the first to emphasise the positive effects of cannabis on interpersonal relationships and any potential therapeutic applications.

Previous research from the University of New Mexico also discovered that healthy young adults who had lately been exposed to cannabis exhibited higher levels of prosocial conduct and a heightened sense of empathy than non cannabis users.

The study suggests that cannabis may cause a shift from more ego-centric self-concepts to a boosted sense of selflessness and an obligation to protect others from harm.

“I often refer to the Cannabis plant as a super medication; it is not only effective for treating the symptoms of a wide range of health conditions, but now we have concrete evidence that it may also help improve the average person’s psychosocial health,” Professor Jacob Miguel Vigil, UNM Department of Psychology.

“Prosociality is essential to society’s overall cohesiveness and vitality, and therefore, cannabis’ effects on our interpersonal interactions may eventually prove to be even more important to societal well-being than its medicinal effects.”

More on this topic from Soft Secrets

Cannabis, stress and anxiety

Cannabis and depression

Liz Filmer