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According to Clinical Psychopharmacology, chronic marijuana use can cause deficits in a person’s ability to identify other people’s emotional states, which psychologists call emotional intelligence (EI).
Marijuana Use and EI
The research team led by Anita Cservenka and Alyssa Mackenzie of Oregon State University reported, “From 2002 to 2017, marijuana use in the adult population increased from 10.4% to 15%.”
“This increase is very concerning as a massive body of research has shown that marijuana use can negatively impact learning and memory, cognitive functioning, attention, and processing speed. Furthermore, an ever-emerging research area says cannabis use can also affect emotion processing.”
To explore further the connection between emotion processing and marijuana use, the scientists examined the existing research for studies that looked at the connection between emotion processing and marijuana use. They were able to find 41 in total, where most were published within the last five years.
Amongst all the studies, the researchers found some commonalities, regular marijuana use demonstrated:
- A dulling of activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and prefrontal cortex in response to being shown emotional images was measured by an fMRI machine.
- There was a decreased response time and accuracy when differentiating and identifying emotional states like sadness, anger, or happiness.
- Low sensitivity to emotional stimuli.
- Brain wave amplitudes measure it, reducing neural activity when displaying emotional stimuli (such as sad vs. happy photos).
Cannabis Science Discovery
The scientists also discovered evidence that some compounds of cannabis, such as CBD and THC, may influence emotion processing in various ways. For example, one study showed that THC heightened anxiety response in social situations as CBD decreased it.
This research shows a concerning picture of how steady marijuana use affects emotional intelligence. By dampening the brain’s capability to process emotional states accurately and quickly, regular cannabis users risk diminishing peoples’ interpersonal relationships.
This, in turn, may lead people to use cannabis to cope with interpersonal issues, causing an endless cycle of weed use and emotional suffering.
More Marijuana Studies Needed
The researchers write, “More studies are vital which categorize marijuana users by frequency of daily use, the duration of use, and the age of marijuana use initiation.”
“More studies on the individual differences are needed to figure out the effects of polysubstance use, sex, and psychiatric disorders on socioemotional performance, as well as studies, should expand their research to older adult marijuana use, as most of the currently published data is only limited to adolescents and young adults.”