It isn’t a secret that cannabis has numerous medical benefits, but despite the strides it’s made in the past few years, there still is an ongoing social stigma around those who use it to treat their health conditions. One of these stigmas is that users are less productive and lazy. However, this is not the case, and science has shown that cannabis can be beneficial when it comes to productivity.
Marijuana causes the brain to release a chemical called dopamine (just like caffeine) and gives users the signature calm, euphoric feeling. Dopamine is one of many chemicals that regulate the brains activity, known as neurotransmitters.
When a person inhales or ingests cannabis, cannabinoids increase the flow of dopamine by blocking off the function of another neurotransmitter, GABA. Normally, GABA waters down the flow of dopamine to the brain. However, when cannabinoids and THC inhibit GABA, the brain releases more dopamine as a result. This increase in dopamine causes people to feel calmer, focused, and can even boost their overall creativity. Contrary to popular belief, endocannabinoids are more strongly linked to ‘runner’s high’ than endorphins.
Dopamine is also linked to pleasure, happiness, and motivation – after using cannabis, some users described their thoughts moving more freely and feeling more focused. Research shows a strong link between cannaboid receptors in the brain and dopamine, which supports why some users feel an improvement in their work ethic after consuming medical marijuana. Although dopamine is usually linked to pleasure or reward, it also acts as a motivator. When the brain’s dopamine levels increase, there is a greater desire to get things done.
Recent studies from the Australian National University looked at long-term cognitive effects in 2,000 subjects, who ranged from total abstinence from cannabis to current light and former heavy users.
Through a series of standard cognitive tests (which focused on intelligence and both working/verbal memory) scientists found there were no significant differences in productivity. The amount of cannabis consumed by the users showed no measurable impact on cognitive performance. Long-term cannabis users can breathe easy – while most drugs can decrease the brains overall production of dopamine, marijuana does not.
Note that there are different strains of marijuana that can lead to changing dopamine levels, Sativa strains are more uplifting and energetic than Indica’s and are typically characterized as cerebral. These strains allow users to be more open and motivated, making them ideal for patients who are seeking a strain that increases their drive, work ethic, and ability to assist them in completing their tasks.