Cannabis and motivation:
science and stories

The impact of cannabis on motivation has long been debated - in this blog we look at the science and the personal stories.

cannabis and motivation

As a research and evidence-based organisation, it can be easy to get caught up in the cold hard facts and to think that data and statistics  are what are most important to everyone. But in a day and age where people will buy an item based more on peer review than on product research, it is becoming increasingly obvious that while we are all talking to each other less face-to-face, we are relying on each other more than ever to help with our education and decision-making processes. Research and evidence will always be important, but it seems a good story can also have a huge influence.

Motivation is one of those things with cannabis-use that has been debated for a long-time. The evidence shows that heavy and prolonged use of the drug can have an effect on ‘people�s get up and go’, but this is constantly driven back by adamant users who describe their ability to successfully hold down a job and build a career. The bottom line is that everyone is different, and likewise, cannabis use will affect everyone differently, but in taking a new twist on an old favourite, we thought we’d quickly review the science, and then leap into some of the stories cannabis and how it relates to motivation.

Science: what do we know?

Scientists have been tossing around the ‘amotivational syndrome’ talk for quite a while, and surprise, surprise, pot users have been arguing against its existence for equally as long. On the one hand, science doesn’t yet have all the answers – research and evidence on the ‘syndrome’ has failed to look at some really key areas or to confidently confirm if cannabis is the cause of this decrease in motivation. On the other hand, clinical observations to-date have suggested that heavy cannabis users do lose some of their ambition and ability to perform – heavy use or use from an early age has convincingly been linked with poor schooling outcomes and higher drop-out rates.

The stories: who says what and why?

Like anything, there will always be a level of bias in stories, and as a reader, you will need to keep in mind which angle the writer is likely to be coming from. It’s not unusual for someone who has had a tough experience with cannabis to want to warn others off, while likewise, it’s common for happy users to want everyone to join them. In sifting through the forums online, there is a little bit of both sides, but overwhelmingly, those who have decided to quit – even if they enjoyed smoking, have cited motivation or ambition as one of the reasons.

In one blog we like to follow, our weed smoker says, “Toward the end of my 15 year smoking blitz, things were getting pretty terrible. I would do absolutely nothing, just stay at home all the time continually watching movies and TV (which I’m now rewatching, as I forget almost everything I watch when stoned)… (https://imquittingweed.wordpress.com/). This writer is one who often talks about why he is giving up cannabis and some of the downsides he experienced while at his peak of use.

In contrast to this, a forum poster writes, ‘It never amazes me how weed gets me pumped anymore. I really do find myself caring more about myself, others around me and my school work. Just the shear [sic] fact I discipline myself not to smoke til I get my daily work done really gets me excited.’ Other posters in this forum agree with one common theme – many, if not all, seem to motivate themselves by the reward of pot, that is, they aim not to smoke until required tasks are completed – an aim which is reinforced in many forums.

In one such forum, a young smoker writes about the effect weed is having on him, saying his grades are getting worse because he can’t be bothered studying. The response to his post is interesting, in that a community of supporters offers to help him with advice, generally centred on not being tempted to smoke while trying to study and rules like ‘ Don’t get high when you have to hide the fact you’re high’. While many of those around him acknowledge the issue and confirm it, suggesting he smoke only after studying, some aggressively and offensively oppose it.

While the common advice from users seems to be that motivation isn’t an issue as long as you wait to smoke until you’re finished set and required tasks, looking forward into their futures, it’s interesting to note the comments from those who have quit or are trying to quit weed after years’ of use. In one blog, a 23 year old man who smoked heavily between 14 and 18 seems panicked and upset that his ability to think and desire to act hasn’t returned since quitting, and another emphasises this point by claiming ‘I’m pretty sure I ruined my brain’.

To finish off, in one final blog, the writer has recently quit cannabis, with just over a month weed-free under his belt. He used for many years and most heavily for the past five years. His blog is quite positive and encouraging, listing out the benefits he already feels he is experiencing – the list is quite long, but after a range of health and breathing advantages, he notably lists sharper mental dexterity, increased energy levels, reduced depression and better focus, many of which will contribute to higher levels of motivation. He doesn’t seem to regret smoking, but acknowledges there were some serious disadvantages in using the drug.

While there will always be two sides to a story, and certainly an investigation into blogs and forums about cannabis and motivation could take years, a quick sample does show that even many happy users acknowledge the need to separate weed and activities that require motivation and focus. If you are a user, it may be worth checking out some of these online hang outs to see if some of the concerns you may have about your own motivation and ambition may be reflected in the stories told by writers from around the world.

If you want to quit cannabis, but you’re struggling, try one of our online quit programs, or give our Cannabis Helpline a call on 1800 30 40 50 for some good advice or just someone to listen.

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