People who use cannabis are more empathetic, study finds
Published on November 10, 2023 by David Wylie
Those of us who regularly use cannabis show signs of a heightened understanding of other people’s emotions (a.k.a. being more empathetic).
A new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research, says regular cannabis users are smarter at emotional intelligence than those who aren’t.
Commonly referred to as EQ—Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence, researchers from Mexico say their study shows cannabis users have “greater connectivity” within a part of the brain mainly responsible for empathy.
“We found that (cannabis) users have a greater emotional comprehension, a cognitive empathy trait involving the understanding of the ‘other’ emotional state,” says the study.
Researchers wrote that the findings are significant because cannabis use has generally been associated with negative mental health and behavioural outcomes. This study, on the other hand, is part of a growing body of evidence that shows cannabis helps people be in tune with the emotions of others.
Cannabis makes you less anti-social
“Furthermore,” say researchers, “the anterior cingulate, a region generally affected by cannabis use and related to empathy, had stronger functional connectivity with brain regions related to sensing the emotional states of others within one’s own body. These findings highlight positive effects of cannabis on interpersonal relationships and potential therapeutic applications.”
It builds on other research that’s found cannabis users are less verbally hostile, and they have greater empathic predisposition to others’ situations, compared to non-users.
Anterior Cingulate and Bilateral Somatomotor Cortex
This latest study compared psychometric scores of empathy subscales, between a group of 85 regular cannabis users and a group of 51 non-consumers.
Researchers suggest cannabis users’ brains have a greater connectivity between the anterior cingulate and the bilateral somatomotor cortex, which could be the reason for the EQ.
Overall, the study says it’s a good reason to continue looking into the connection between cannabis and empathy.
“Given previous studies of the effect of cannabis on mood and emotional detection, we believe that these results contribute to open a pathway to study further the clinical applications of the positive effect that cannabis or cannabis components could have in affect and social interactions,” says the study.
“We believe that the differences shown by regular cannabis users in the emotional comprehension scores and their brain functional connectivity, could be related to the use of cannabis. However, we cannot discard that such differences were present before the users started their use of cannabis.”