Cannabis and Motivation

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by RMJL, Sep 11, 2003.

  1. Cannabis and Motivation
    Wed, Sept 10, 2003

    Mitch Earleywine, USC Professor and author of "Understanding Marijuana," debunks the popular, yet scientifically unsound, argument that marijuana leads to lethargy, or 'amotivational syndrome'.

    Prohibitionists have worried that cannabis will turn adolescents into apathetic slugs. This worry goes back to at least the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission of 1894. Even the current head of the National Institute of Drug Abuse makes statements suggesting she believes in amotivational syndrome.

    Data don't support amotivational syndrome. They just don't. Any chemical that actually turned people into listless idiots would probably become part of chemical warfare.

    Yes, in a couple of studies, when people are high in the laboratory, they are less likely to press a bar for a quarter. But the stereotype of the twinkie-gulping stoner spending all day on the couch is not a reality. Everybody knows one "burn out" who seems to work well below some imaginary potential. But he is invariably the exception rather than the rule. Odds are high that he decided to do nothing long before he decided to smoke cannabis. A subset of depressed users may have inspired a few case studies that report this apathy and indifference, but cannabis does not cause these symptoms.

    Cannabis use does not correlate with grades in college students. High school students who use cannabis have lower grades, but their poor school performance occurred prior to their consumption. Cannabis doesn't make high school students do poorly in school, but high school students who do poorly in school seem to like cannabis.

    Cannabis users do not show worse performance on the job, more frequent unemployment, or lower wages. One study showed that cannabis users actually earn more money than non-users (Kaestner, 1994)! In addition, long-term exposure to cannabis in the laboratory fails to show any meaningful or consistent impact on productivity.

    I'm sure plenty of parents and educators think "What's the harm in telling kids this little white lie?" Suggesting that cannabis saps motivation has two insidious negative effects.

    First, people all assume that a productive life is a happy one. It depends on what "productive" means, of course. As many of us have said time and again, simply making piles of cash doesn't do it. Richard Easterlin, a colleague of mine at USC, recently proved this point again. His paper in 'The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science' shows that quality time with loved ones is extremely important to happiness, but acquiring wealth is not. All these concerns about motivation and productivity may be misplaced.

    Second, even implying that cannabis destroys productivity is a lie. Once this lie gets uncovered, students wonder if other drug education was a lie. If cannabis doesn't sap motivation, maybe all that ranting about crack cocaine was just hype. A small lie about amotivational syndrome destroys our credibility. It's a risk we just can't take.

    The truth is important. And the truth is: cannabis does not cause amotivational syndrome.

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