"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

According to a study, marijuana consumption can increase empathy

November 9, 2023 – Marijuana is commonly linked to poor mental health, but a small recent study shows that it may well improve users' empathy, the flexibility to know or share one other person's feelings.

Brain imaging showed that marijuana users' brains were more connected and functional in the realm related to empathy in comparison with non-users.

The results from researchers in Mexico were published Wednesday within the Journal of Neuroscientific Research and construct on previous research that has shown that marijuana use prompts certain areas of the brain.

This latest study involved 85 marijuana users and 51 non-users. There were 22 women and 63 men among the many users. People in each group had similar levels of education. None of the study participants suffered from depression or used certain other drugs comparable to opioids, cocaine or psychotropic drugs or drugs with psychological effects.

The researchers asked them questions on empathy and examined their brains. The people within the study rated their agreement with the statements of the cognitive and affective empathy test, comparable to: “When a friend is sad, I get sad too.” The questions measure 4 areas of empathy skills. Some of the people within the study also had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The MRIs showed that marijuana users had more connections within the a part of the brain that senses the emotions of others in their very own bodies.

In the questionnaire portion of the study, marijuana users showed significantly greater ability in one in every of 4 areas called emotional understanding. These skills allow someone to know the sentiments and intentions of others. There were no differences between users and non-users within the three other areas of empathy skills. These three areas included:

  • Empathic stress skills that allow someone to share or be emotionally in tune with one other person's negative emotions
  • Empathic joy skills that help someone share the positive emotions and successes of others
  • Perspective taking, i.e. understanding the points of view of others

“Although further research is needed, these results open an exciting new window into exploring the potential effects of cannabis in assisting in the treatment of disorders associated with deficits in social interactions, such as sociopathy, social anxiety and avoidant personality disorder, among others,” said Co-author Víctor Olalde-Mathieu, PhD, of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, said in a Press release.

The authors cautioned that “further research is needed to examine this association as many other factors may be at play,” meaning such differences can have existed before people began using marijuana.