Stoner Stereotypes Called Into Question By New Study

By Keri Blakinger 01/04/18

Researchers hypothesized that regular pot users would have less motivation than occasional tokers. But that’s not quite how it panned out. 

Guy smoking a marijuana joint while a girl watches him.

A new study is calling into question stereotypes about lazy and unmotivated potheads. 

The research, published in the December issue of the journal Substance Use & Misuse, examined motivation levels in 79 adolescents aged 14 to 18, roughly half of whom were regular pot smokers.

"Decreased motivation is often noted as a consequence of cannabis use," the researchers wrote. "Previous work has yielded mixed findings, relied mostly on adult samples, and varied to the extent that it accounted for potential confounds."

Going into it, researchers hypothesized that regular pot users would have less motivation than occasional tokers. But that’s not quite how it panned out. 

At the outset, study participants were all assessed and classified as either regular or light cannabis users. Motivation was measured by an Apathy Evaluation Scale and Motivation and Engagement Scale. 

After performing some hierarchical multiple regressions and other fancy-sounding math, researchers realized that their initial hypothesis was a little off. “Our findings do not support a link between reduced motivation and cannabis use among adolescents after controlling for relevant confounds,” the team wrote.

The new study is just the latest addition to the vast body of sometimes conflicting research in the effects of marijuana.

In 2013, a study found that long-term pot use could lead to lower dopamine production, which is directly related to motivation and reward.

The following year, a relatively small but controversial study in the Journal of Neuroscience linked casual marijuana use to brain abnormalities—specifically in the areas controlling emotion and motivation.

Another study that same year found that chronic pot use can cause depression, while a third found that wacky tobacky can actually dampen creativity.

"The improved creativity that (marijuana users) believe they experience is an illusion,” researcher Lorenza Colzato said at the time. “If you want to overcome writer's block or any other creative gap, lighting up a joint isn't the best solution. Smoking several joints one after the other can even be counterproductive to creative thinking."

In 2016, a British study found that smoking even one spliff can dampen short-term motivation to work for money. Then last year, Canadian researchers hilariously determined that pot can cause fertility problems by making sperm “mellow” and causing them to “swim in circles.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.