A new study has found that smoking the equivalent of a single “spliff” of cannabis makes people less willing to work for money.
“Although cannabis is commonly thought to reduce motivation, this is the first time it has been reliably tested and quantified using an appropriate sample size and methodology,” said lead author Dr. Will Lawn of University College London.
“It has also been proposed that long-term cannabis users might also have problems with motivation even when they are not high. However, we compared people dependent on cannabis to similar controls, when neither group was intoxicated, and did not find a difference in motivation.
“This tentatively suggests that long-term cannabis use may not result in residual motivation problems when people stop using it. However, longitudinal research is needed to provide more conclusive evidence.”
For the study, published in Psychopharmacology, the researchers recruited 57 volunteers in two separate studies.
The first involved 17 adult volunteers who all used cannabis occasionally. Through a balloon, they inhaled cannabis vapor on one occasion and cannabis-placebo vapor on a separate occasion.
They then completed a task designed to measure their motivation for earning money. This was a real-life task as the volunteers were given money they had earned at the end of the experiment, the researchers noted.
In each trial of the task, volunteers could choose whether to complete low- or high-effort tasks to win varying sums of money. The low-effort option involved pressing the spacebar key with the little finger of their non-dominant hand 30 times in seven seconds to win 50p (66 cents). The high-effort option involved 100 space bar presses in 21 seconds, for rewards varying from 80p ($1.06) to £2 ($2.65).
“Repeatedly pressing keys with a single finger isn’t difficult but it takes a reasonable amount of effort, making it a useful test of motivation,” said senior author Professor Val Curran. “We found that people on cannabis were significantly less likely to choose the high-effort option. On average, volunteers on placebo chose the high-effort option 50 percent of the time for a £2 reward, whereas volunteers on cannabis only chose the high-effort option 42 percent of the time.”
In the second study, 20 people addicted to cannabis were matched with 20 people who did not use cannabis. Participants were not allowed to consume alcohol or drugs, other than tobacco or coffee, for 12 hours before the study.
They were then asked to perform the same motivation task as participants in the first study. The results showed that cannabis-dependent volunteers were no less motivated than the control group, according to the researchers.
However, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between long-term cannabis use and possible effects on motivation, the researchers concluded.
Source: University College London