The stereotype of the “lazy stoner” originated in the 1930s, propagated by Harry Anslinger, the first head of the DEA. Despite debunking other misconceptions about cannabis, the perception of unmotivated stoners has endured over time.
However, as cannabis legalization progresses, new studies are shedding light on the plant’s effects. A recent study published in late summer 2022 challenges the “lazy stoner” stereotype, offering findings that may finally dispel this misconception once and for all.
Anhedonia, Apathy, Pleasure, and Effort-Based Decision-Making Cannabis Study
A study titled “Anhedonia, apathy, pleasure, and effort-based decision-making in adult and adolescent cannabis users and controls” was conducted by scientists from the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, and University College London. Published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, the study aimed to investigate the relationship between cannabis use and anhedonia, apathy, pleasure, and effort-based decision-making, as well as the potential influence of age.
Anhedonia refers to the inability to experience pleasure, unrelated to conditions like depression, while apathy denotes a lack of interest or enthusiasm. The study initially hypothesized that cannabis users would exhibit higher levels of anhedonia and apathy compared to non-users. Additionally, the researchers expected that cannabis users would be less likely to exert effort for rewards and have diminished subjective desire for rewards compared to non-users.
Contrary to their hypotheses, the study’s findings revealed that cannabis users actually had lower levels of anhedonia than non-users, although the effect size was small. These results do not align with the assumption that non-acute cannabis use is associated with a lack of motivation.
The study proposed two potential explanations for these findings. One possibility is that cannabis may increase reward-seeking behavior. Alternatively, it could be that individuals who are more inclined to seek pleasure are also more likely to use cannabis.
The Influence of Cannabis Stereotypes:
According to the aforementioned study, years of perpetuating stereotypes about cannabis users being lazy may have influenced individuals’ awareness of how they are perceived. This awareness could have prompted participants in psychological studies to consciously present themselves as more motivated, potentially biasing the results obtained in such studies.
How to Fight It?
The study’s conclusion highlights the positive findings that challenge the stereotype of cannabis users as unmotivated. It emphasizes that a significant group of both adult and adolescent cannabis users did not differ from non-users in measures of reward and motivation. These results contribute to the increasing body of evidence suggesting that non-acute cannabis use is not associated with amotivation. This has the potential to reduce the stigma faced by individuals who use cannabis. It signifies a new era where cannabis consumers can lead motivated and productive lives, dispelling the negative perceptions that prevailed during the days of prohibition.