Cannabis users can learn to understand other people's emotions
As part of the current debate about cannabis, a recent study has highlighted the impact of this plant on empathy. Psychological evaluations reveal that regular cannabis users may have a greater sense of other people's emotions.
Researchers found that frequent cannabis users had a better understanding of the emotional state of others. Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware, being sensitive to and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experiences of others”
Goal of the study
THEsurvey did not simply rely on subjective psychological evaluations. Experts have extended its field of investigation to brain imaging tests
These tests revealed that the anterior cingulum – a region of the brain typically influenced by cannabis – showed stronger connections to areas responsible for perceiving the emotional states of others within the individual's own body.
This neurobiological evidence suggests that the drug's influence on the brain may play a role in increasing users' empathic abilities.
How the research was conducted
The overall approach of the study focused on a sample of 85 regular cannabis users and 51 non-consumers.
All participants underwent psychometric testing to assess empathy levels. Additionally, a subset of the group, consisting of 46 consumers and 34 non-consumers, participated in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to observe brain activity and network connectivity.
The results are particularly noteworthy because they challenge existing stereotypes about cannabis users and offer a new perspective on the neurological impact of this substance.
New therapeutic applications
Víctor Olalde-Mathieu, of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, co-author of the study, note that these preliminary results could pave the way for new therapeutic applications of cannabis.
“While further research is needed, these findings open an exciting new window to explore the potential effects of cannabis in aiding the treatment of conditions involving deficits in social interactions, such as sociopathy, social anxiety, and avoidant personality disorder, among others,” said Dr. Olalde-Mathieu.
Significance of the study
“Cannabis use is generally associated with negative effects on Mental Health and behavior. Using fMRI connectivity and psychometric methods, this study showed that regular cannabis users better understand the emotions of others,” the researchers write.
“Additionally, the anterior cingulum, a region typically affected by cannabis use and linked to empathy, exhibited stronger functional connectivity with brain regions related to perceiving the emotional states of others within one's own body.
“These results highlight the positive effects of cannabis on interpersonal relationships and potential therapeutic applications.
Further research is needed
Although the results are promising, the researchers stress that additional research is necessary to fully understand the implications of consumption of cannabis in this context. The study cannot conclusively establish causation, nor examine the long-term effects of cannabis on empathy and social behavior.
Implications of the study
This research marks an important step in demystifying the multiple effects of cannabis on the human mind and social functioning. It opens a new window to explore how cannabis could be integrated into therapeutic strategies for social disorders, which could lead to revolutionary treatment options.
As the scientific community continues to study the brain and behavioral changes of cannabis users, this study serves as a central reference point for future investigations and clinical trials.