Screenshot from PSA that shows cannabis user morph into a couch.
In the collective cultural ether, many frequently depict cannabis as a plant that inhibits motivation. This belief is so deeply embedded into pop culture that it has been embraced as an accurate representation of cannabis-users. Hence the lazy stoner archetype in films, T.V. and more.
There is even an entire cannabis-vernacular that describes the different, supposedly cannabis-induced, motivationally-inhibited states. Such as “couch-locked,” which the Urban Dictionary defines as: “when you get so incredibly stoned that you actually become a part of the couch.” Or, there’s the even more colloquial terms like “baked” or “stoned.” Both terms connote a state of serious impairment, loss of motivation, and for the uninitiated — loss of motor-coordination.
Now, while most cannabis-smokers have never watched someone literally morph into living room furniture — albeit a few may remember this PSA that shows just that — many still believe that cannabis-use can lead to amotivation. Amotivation is a condition that entails a complete absence of any kind of motivation.
Yet, a study recently published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, aptly titled Evidence Lacking for Cannabis Users Slacking, contests this widely-held belief through data.
The Study’s Methodology and Findings
The study focuses on adolescents and the relation between their cannabis use and their motivation. Researchers looked at a little over 400 teenagers ranging from ages 14 to 17, and gave them five bi-annual surveys. The surveys tracked motivation and cannabis-use.
The researchers defined motivation as a multi-faceted concept that “encompasses the cognitions, emotions and behaviours involved in the activation, execution and persistence of goal-directed behaviour,” they wrote.
Simply put, motivation is the ability to strive for a predetermined goal over a sustained amount of time.
During their research, they found that “on average, adolescent cannabis use frequency increased significantly over time.” But, they also discovered that “aspects of motivation remained stable [over this same period of time].”
Overall, the researchers found that: “our results do not support a prospective link between cannabis use and reduced motivation among adolescents.”
The researchers also noted that none of the participants of the data-collection survey had any known instances of being absorbed by, or becoming one with, their couch. (Editor’s note: Researchers made no such comment in their article; this Emerald writer is just brutally murdering an already dead joke.)
Some Caveats and Considerations
Despite there being no causal link between cannabis-consumption and lack of motivation; the study did find another genuinely alarming link between increased cannabis consumption and an apathetic attitude towards school.
Furthermore, the researchers noted that this lessened valuing of school could potentially, “contribute to poorer educational and later life outcomes.”
So, although overall there was no decrease in motivation; there was a significant link between negative views of school and cannabis-use, which is an important caveat of the study.
It seems there needs to be more research on the link between negative views of school and adolescent cannabis-use.
Another important consideration is that this study consists entirely of adolescents. So it is not representative of the entire cannabis-community. With college-aged students, the link between negative views of education and cannabis-use could potentially be insignificant.
“Setting the Record Straight”
NORML hailed the study as an important precedent. In a press release about it, the organization’s deputy director, Paul Armentano, says:
“Modern science is setting the record straight and exposing much of the ‘reefer madness’ of the past decades. Unfortunately, many of these myths still remain prevalent in our society, and are often raised by politicians in their efforts to justify the failed policies of marijuana prohibition and stigmatization. It is time for America to set aside these myths and adopt cannabis policies based on facts, not fears.”
Studies like this, and future research that builds upon it, can eventually supply a holistic picture of cannabis and behavior.
We will hopefully learn more in the future about the relationship between cannabis, motivation, views on education, and overall impact on adolescent development.
As Norml stated, we don’t need dogmatic beliefs; we need facts.